Have you ever sat down with your smartphone and thought about how far telephones have come over the years?
Some extremely underrated women in history are the hundreds of thousands of women who worked as switchboard operators, which made it possible for people to communicate with each other over the phone during the 20th century.
In the late 1800s, when the telephone started being a part of people’s homes, you couldn’t call someone directly. There had to be a telephone operator that would physically use a switchboard to connect you to the person you were trying to call.
When the use of switchboard operators first came around, young men and teenage boys were the ones who took on the role.
However, after it was found that these boys didn’t have the best customer service skills, the Bell Telephone company insisted that all telephone operating jobs go to women in 1900. All over the country, the job became a women-dominated position.
There were specific qualifications a woman had to meet in order to become a switchboard operator. These women had to be deemed ‘physically fit’ in order to operate the switchboard.
They had to be tall enough to reach the top wires and have impeccable hearing and eyesight. Also, if you had a chronic cough, you weren’t allowed to be a switchboard operator!
These women were also subjected to very strict dress codes and were often overworked. At busier boards, some women wore roller skates to operate faster. Many women couldn’t even speak to each other throughout the workday because of all the calls they needed to take care of.
People may not know that these switchboard operators were very important during World War I.