September 1 – Emma M. Nutt Day

Posted on September 1, 2016

So many jobs used to be segregated - only particular ages, sexes, and races worked in various positions. Being a telephone operator was one of them.

Back in the day before there were telephones, there were telegraphs, and being a telegraph operator was one of the first “high tech” jobs of the modern era. Then as now, high-tech, cutting-edge jobs appeal more to young people, and young men and boys especially were hired to become telegraph operators. They tapped out people's messages on the key, using Morse Code, and converted arriving Morse Code messages to understandable English telegraphs.

When telephones largely replaced telegraphs, companies hired young men and boys to be operators – just had been done with the earlier technology. But – according to Wikipedia – male telephone operators tended to be impatient, to have bad attitudes, even to curse or play pranks on callers! 

On this date in 1878, Emma Nutt became the first female telephone operator. She was hired for a Boston telephone dispatch company by Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the world's first practical telephone) himself! 

Customers apparently loved her soothing voice and her patience. The response was so overwhelmingly positive, women telephone operators became the standard!

Notice that, in the early days of telephones, telephone
operators had to stand rather than sit. They had to be tall
enough -- or long-armed enough -- to reach the top of the
telephone exchange!

By the way, Emma Nutt loved the job and ended up working as a telephone operator more than 30 years.

Here are some oddities about the whole Emma Nutt story:

  • A few hours after she became the first-ever female telephone operator, Emma's sister Stella Nutt was hired by the same company and thus became the second female telephone operator! – Notice that Stella didn't get a holiday named after her!
  • Women who worked as operators had to be unmarried. To start with, at least, they had to be proper young ladies between the ages of 17 and 26. African American and Jewish women apparently were not hired as telephone operators.
  • It was said that Emma Nutt could remember every telephone number in the telephone director of the New England Telephone Company!
  • A synthesized speech program has been named EMMA in Nutt's honor.
Here is a quick history of telephone operators:

Call centers or telephone exchanges or switchboards...
...Whatever they call it, is's a rather low paying job...
Modern operators need access to computers, of course.
In some cases, calls are sent to far-away nations;
operators study popular culture in an
attempt to fit in!

Also on this date:

Self-University Week Begins

Independence Day in Uzbekistan

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