DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Aug 29 2014

Emma Mills Nutt Day!

by Glenda

emmanuttOn September 1, 2014, we celebrate Emma Mills Nutt as the first female telephone operator.  On September 1, 1878, Emma began working for the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company. Her career lasted thirty-three years. Prior to hiring Emma, the telephone dispatch had young men as telephone operators, and some customers felt the men did not have the proper attitude and patience for live telephone contact. Customers had positive responses to Emma’s soothing voice and her patience. Soon all of the men were replaced by women.

Emma was hired by Alexander Graham Bell, most recognized as the inventor of the first practical telephone. She changed jobs from the local telegraph office. Emma’s salary was $10.00 per month for a 54-hour work week. It is said that Emma could remember every number in the telephone directory of the New England Telephone Company. It was not all that easy for a woman to become an operator. The woman needed to be unmarried and between the ages of seventeen and twenty-six. A woman had to look proper and have arms long enough to reach the top of the tall telephone switchboard. Many books have been published about the history of the telephone. Click here to see some items you may want to check out at DCPL.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dea Anne M August 29, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Thanks for the very interesting post, Glenda. It’s interesting to me that during the late nineteenth century and into the early twentieth – so many young woman found work in unprecedented numbers. Not so impressive, to me at least, was the requirement – that you mention here – that these women had to remain unmarried in order to keep their jobs. In any case, I enjoyed reading about this little known female pioneer!

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