Today is Emma Nutt Day in honor of the world’s first female telephone operator recruited by Alexander Graham Bell in 1878. Now WE know em


By 1874, Alexander Graham Bell’s initial work on the telephone had progressed in large part due to his benefactor Gardiner Greene Hubbard who was also the father of Bell’s deaf girlfriend Mabel Hubbard.

When Alexander Graham Bell mentioned to Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders that he was working on a method of sending multiple tones on a telegraph wire using a multi-reed device, the two wealthy patrons began to financially support Bell’s experiments. Patent matters were handled by Hubbard’s patent attorney, Anthony Pollok.

On March 10, 1876, three days after his patent was issued, Bell succeeded in getting his telephone to work, using a liquid transmitter. When Bell spoke the famous sentence “Mr Watson—Come here—I want to see you” into the liquid transmitter, Watson, listening at the receiving end in an adjoining room, heard the words clearly.

Then on July 9, 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was created by Gardiner Greene Hubbard on the basis of holding Bell’s valuable telephone patent. Edwin Holmes became the president of the company.

Two days later, on July 11, 1877, Bell married Mabel Hubbard at the Hubbard estate in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His wedding present to his bride was to turn over 1,487 of his 1,497 shares in the newly formed Bell Telephone Company.

In January of 1878, Edwin Holmes had started hiring boys as telephone operators, starting with George Willard Croy.

However, the boys attitude, lack of patience, and behavior including pranks and cursing, became unacceptable.

Emma Mills Nut’s husband was hired and must have allowed for her to meet Alexander Graham Bell.

Thus, on September 1, 1878, Bell personally recruited the 18 year old Emma Nutt to become the first female telephone operator.

A few hours after Emma started work her sister Stella became the world’s second female telephone operator.

The customer response to Emma and Stella’s patient, soothing, cultured voices were overwhelmingly positive.

This scene from "Bold Experiment – the Telephone Story", depicts Emma and Stella Nutt, working alongside male operators at Boston, Massachusetts in 1878.

This scene from “Bold Experiment – the Telephone Story”, depicts Emma and Stella Nutt, working alongside male operators at Boston, Massachusetts in 1878.

As a result, boys were eventually replaced by women.

Emma and her sister were paid a salary of $10 per month for a 54 hour week.

Emma, reportedly, also could remember every number in the telephone directory of the New England Telephone Company.

Standards were developed; to become an operator, a woman had to be unmarried and between the ages of seventeen and twenty-six.

Operators had to look prim and proper, and have arms long enough to reach the top of the tall telephone switchboard.

Emma died in 1915 at the age of 54 or 55.

Now WE know em




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