The Women Who Got America Talking

Early Telephone Operators, 1878–1922

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About the Book

When the need for telephone operators arose in the 1870s, the assumption was that they should all be male. Wages for adult men were too high, so boys were hired. They proved quick to argue with the subscribers, so females replaced them. Women were calmer, had reassuring voices and rarely talked back. Within a few years, telephone operators were all female and would remain so.
The pay was low and working conditions harsh. The job often impaired their health, as they suffered abuse from subscribers in silence under pain of dismissal. Discipline was stern—dress codes were mandated, although they were never seen by the public. Most were young, domestic and anything but militant. Yet many joined unions and walked picket lines in response to the severely capitalistic, sexist system they worked under.

About the Author(s)

Cultural historian Kerry Segrave is the author of dozens of books on such diverse topics as drive-in theaters, lie detectors, jukeboxes, smoking, shoplifting and ticket-scalping. He lives in British Columbia.

Bibliographic Details

Kerry Segrave
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 240
Bibliographic Info: 67 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6904-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2815-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Preface    1

Introduction    3

1. In the Beginning, Men vs. Women 5

2. The Hello Girl to 1900 15

3. The Operator, 1901–1922 41

4. Discipline 92

5. Health and Swearing and Love and Harassment 106

6. Strikes and Labor Unions 129

7. Goodbye to the Hello Girl 196

Chapter Notes    207

Bibliography    217

Index    227