On 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.