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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Emma M. Nutt Day

September 1 is Emma M. Nutt Day. On 1 September 1878, Emma Mills Nutt became the first female telephone operator. Alexander Graham Bell hired her to work for the Edwin Holmes Telephone Dispatch Company (also known as the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company.) She had previously been working at a telegraph office. Emma was paid $10 per month and worked 54 hours per week.

Previously, boys had been telephone operators (the first telephone operator, George Willard Croy, was hired in January 1878), but their behavior could be unacceptable (they were impatient, played pranks, and cursed.) Customers responded well to Emma's soothing, cultured voice. Because women were more polite and because they could be paid less, they replaced boys as telephone operators. 

Emma could remember every telephone number in the New England Telephone Company's directory. She worked as a telephone operator for at least thirty-three years.

Emma's sister Stella Nutt was the second female telephone operator. She was hired a few hours after Emma, but only worked as a telephone operator for a few years.

 Emma Nutt circa 1878-1900. Public domain. Available from Wikipedia.

My great-grandmother Anna Gertrude Tarkington and many of her relatives (her sisters Margaret and Viola Maydell Tarkington; her aunts Jennie Julia, and Adeline Sophronia Tarkington; and her cousin Susie Tarkington) worked as telephone operators in Nashville, Tennessee. My 2nd-great-grandmother Sarah Claire "Sadie" Dyer's half-sister Annie Cox also worked as a telephone operator in Nashville.

Nashville City Directory 1905. Nashville, TN: Marshall-Bruce-Polk Co. Page 1095. Available from U.S. City Directories, 1822-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Emma M. Nutt Day
Emma Nutt 
Emma Nutt, The World's 1st Woman Telephone Operator
The History Behind That Soothing Telephone Operator's Voice
Switchboard operator

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