By Thomas C. Jepsen
The position of the telegraph operator within the mid-nineteenth century used to be like that of today’s software program programmer/analyst, in line with autonomous pupil Tom Jepsen, who notes that during the “cyberspace” of some time past, male operators have been frequently stunned to profit that the “first-class man” at the different finish of the cord was once a woman.
Like the pc, the telegraph prompted a technological revolution. The telegraph quickly labored synergistically with the era’s different mass-scale expertise, the railroad, to proportion amenities in addition to offer communications to assist trains run on time.
The strategic nature of the telegraph within the Civil battle opened possibilities for girls, yet rigidity arose as males started to go back from army carrier. even though, ladies telegraphers didn't have an effect on male employment or salary degrees. ladies stored their jobs after the battle with aid from — Western Union particularly — and since they defended and justified their role.
“Although girls have been predominantly hired in lower-paying positions and in rural workplaces, girls who continued and made a occupation of the occupation may possibly paintings as much as managerial or senior technical positions that, aside from salary discrimination, have been just like these in their male counterparts,” writes Jepsen. “Telegraphy as an career grew to become gendered, within the feel that we comprehend at the present time, purely after the advent of the teletype and the construction of a separate position for girls teletype operators.”
My Sisters Telegraphic is a clean advent to this pivotal communications know-how and its unsung ladies staff, lengthy overlooked via hard work and social historians.
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Extra info for My Sisters Telegraphic: Women in the Telegraph Office, 1846-1950
25 In some cases, the mentor was a woman. The women operators of the Deseret Telegraph in Utah often passed telegraphic skills from one generation to the next. The Utah historian Kate Carter tells the story of the Johnson family in her book on the operators of the Deseret Telegraph, The Story of Telegraphy. Mary Ann Johnson was the fourth wife in the plural marriage of Aaron Johnson, one of the original Mormon settlers of Springville, Utah. After the completion of the Deseret Telegraph in the late 1860s, she was one of the ﬁrst to volunteer to learn telegraphy and serve her community as operator.
For them, the term implied newness and a modern outlook; for women in particular, it suggested the possibility for education, independent living, and meaningful work outside of the home. Alexander H. Bullock, former governor of Massachusetts, conveyed the mid-nineteenth-century sense of this term, especially as it applied to women, in a speech he delivered at Mount Holyoke Seminary in 1876, entitled “The Centennial Situation of Woman”: In periods when there were only the gentlewoman and the lowborn woman, the one was indeed maintained by the other, but the one also belonged to the other, or to the master of both; and self-dependence, whether ideal or actual, was as unknown as the electric telegraph.
94-1818. O C C U PAT I O N A L H A Z A R D S 35 because a female Teletype operator could send and receive at a rate far exceeding that of a ﬁrst-class Morse operator, and at a lower rate of pay. Occupational Hazards Although telegraphy was less physically strenuous than most factory work in the nineteenth century and generally conducted in more healthful surroundings, it entailed some risks. Lightning was an occupational hazard for telegraphers; when a bolt of lightning struck the wire, the electrical charge would travel along the wire to the telegraph office, where it would take the shortest path to ground—sometimes through the operator.
My Sisters Telegraphic: Women in the Telegraph Office, 1846-1950 by Thomas C. Jepsen