1879 : Grand Rapids Women Employed As Telephone Operators for First Time

June 1, 2024 all-day

On this day in 1879, Michigan women were employed as telephone operators for the first time in Grand Rapids. They replaced boys who had neglected the switchboards in order to play marbles.

Before that date – and long after – women continued to struggle to find equal opportunity, pay and respect in the workplace. Average wages for working women in Michigan are still 23 percent less than the average wage for working men in our state.

Phone Operators

According to National Geographic, telephone companies quickly realized that women made better operators than the boys, such as the women depicted in this early 1880s photograph of a Richmond, Virginia, switchboard. Male operators talked back to customers and were otherwise unsatisfactory, so women soon replaced them. The women were an instant success and paved the way for women to enter many other fields of employment.

Source : #MIHistory – June 1: Women Operators, the Official Blog of the Michigan House Democrats.

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