|Died||1915 (aged 54–55)|
|Known for||World's first female telephone operator|
Emma Mills Nutt (1860–1915) became the world's first female telephone operator on 1 September 1878 when she started working for the Edwin Holmes Telephone Despatch Company (or the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company) in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Life and career
In January 1878 the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company had started hiring boys as telephone operators, starting with George Willard Croy. Boys (reportedly including Emma's husband) had been very successful as telegraphy operators, but their attitude (lack of patience) and behaviour (pranks and cursing) were unacceptable for live phone contact, so the company began hiring women operators instead. Thus, on September 1, 1878 Emma was hired, starting a career that lasted between 33 and 37 years, ending with her retirement sometime between 1911 and 1915. A few hours after Emma started working, her sister, Stella Nutt, became the world's second female telephone operator, also making the pair the first two sister telephone operators in history. Unlike Emma, Stella only remained on the job for a few years.
The customer response to her soothing, cultured voice and patience was overwhelmingly positive, so boys were soon replaced by women. In 1879 these included Bessie Snow Balance, Emma Landon, Carrie Boldt, and Minnie Schumann, the first female operators in Michigan.
Emma 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. Reportedly, she could remember every number in the telephone directory of the New England Telephone Company.
To be an operator, a woman had to be unmarried [clarification needed] and between the ages of seventeen and twenty-six. She had to look prim and proper, and have arms long enough to reach the top of the tall telephone switchboard. Like many other American businesses at the turn of the century, telephone companies discriminated against people from certain ethnic groups and races. For instance, African-American and Jewish women were not allowed to become operators.
1 September is commemorated annually as Emma M. Nutt day.
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