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Long ago, in 1878, the first telephone operator started working for the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company. What image do you have in your mind when you think of a phone operator?

Clean white blouse, sensible ankle length skirt, and a friendly female voice? You may be surprised that the first operator was a man, in fact all of the first ones were. But their reign wasn’t to last, in September of 1878 Emma M Nutt became the first female phone operator, and from that point forward it’s been a woman’s industry. National Emma M. Nutt Day celebrates this pioneer and all she and her fellow operators have done for communication since!

History of National Emma M. Nutt Day

As mentioned above, the first operators were all boys, and while we’re not huge fans of the phrase ‘boys will be boys’ in modern parlance, it was definitely something that was well believed back in the early days of telephone. Boys who were put in the position of telephone operators exhibited a basic lack of patience, and behaviors that included pranks and cussing, which just wouldn’t do for the people who were supposed to be the friendly voice of a telephone operator.

So it was that Emma M Nutt came to join the New England Telephone Company, and whose cultured, gentle voice set the standard for what an operator was supposed to sound like. She was a true rock star at what she did too, working a 54-hour week at a rate of $10 a month and memorizing every number in the New England Telephone Company directory. She then went on to work for the company for between 33 and 37 years, ultimately retiring. For a few years she even worked alongside her sister Stella Nutt, creating the first sister pair of operators in history too!

How to celebrate National Emma M. Nutt Day

One of our favorite ways to celebrate Emma M Nutt day is to get on the phone and dial the operator, when they pick up, male or female, we thank them for the work they do and tell them who the first telephone operator was. It’s also fun to sit down and look back through the pages of history and see how far the telephone switchboard has come. The world is ever advancing, but chances are we’ll always need the friendly voice of operators like Emma M Nutt to help us find those particularly tricky numbers. Thank you Emma, and all the operators that have followed for helping us keep in touch!

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