Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Obscene Calls - Just Part of the Job

Here’s some interesting telephone operator trivia I found
out from a cousin while doing genealogical research.

One of my G-G Aunts was a telephone operator before 1901.
(She married in 1901 and telephone operators were not
allowed to work after they were married). Her name was
Ella Louise and according to my cousin Robert Edmondson:

“I did locate G/Mo's eldest sister, Ella Louisa, in Greensboro ,
a boarder in the home of a "Stack" family. I can recall G/Mo
talking about people being very naughty, when talking to the
telephone operators..... how the female operators would get
all sorts of risque calls from anonymous men”

I looked into the early telephone operator careers and while I
did not find mention of these early obscene phone calls, I did
find this about their pay:

“A telephone girl starts in as a student at $3 a week, listening
in at first, and finally taking the case in slack hours. She is
raised gradually according to her capacity until in two or
three years, if she is bright and quick, she reaches the top
of operatorhood, $9 a week. The Supervisors get about a
dollar a week more, the pay of monitors is $12. An expert
chief operator can rise to about $18. No girl has yet risen
from student to the heights of ordinary operatorhood in
less than a year and a half ”.

$3 a week - that's $12 a month or $144 a year. Geez Ella Louise.

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