This Day in History – September 1st, 1878


Emma Nutt

At the start of 1878, the Boston Telephone Dispatch company had hired boys to operate the telephone wires and connect calls, but being boys they typically lacked the maturity to maintain the correct behavior needed for live phone contact. They would conduct pranks, and would use profane language with people on the other end of the line. So on September 1st, 1978, the company hired the first woman to become a telephone operator, Emma Nutt. Only hours after Emma began the job, her sister Stella Nut, became the second woman operator. The women’s smooth and cultured voices were quickly popular with phone customers, and soon the company replaced the boys with women.

Later, Emma Nutt was hired by Alexander Graham Bell who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone; apparently she changed jobs from a local telegraph office. She was paid a salary of $10 per month for a 54 hour week. She, reportedly, could remember every number in the telephone directory of the New England Telephone Company.

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