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 response to self reliant student Tom Jepsen, who notes that during the “cyberspace” of in the past, male operators have been frequently stunned to benefit that the “first-class man” at the different finish of the twine was once a woman.
Like the pc, the telegraph triggered a technological revolution. The telegraph quickly labored synergistically with the era’s different mass-scale expertise, the railroad, to percentage amenities in addition to offer communications to assist trains run on time.
The strategic nature of the telegraph within the Civil struggle opened possibilities for ladies, yet pressure arose as males started to go back from army provider. notwithstanding, girls telegraphers didn't impact male employment or salary degrees. ladies saved their jobs after the struggle with help 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 endured and made a profession of the career may well 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 profession turned gendered, within the feel that we comprehend at the present time, merely after the creation of the teletype and the construction of a separate function for ladies teletype operators.”
My Sisters Telegraphic is a clean advent to this pivotal communications know-how and its unsung ladies staff, lengthy missed through exertions and social historians.
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Additional resources for My Sisters Telegraphic: Women in the Telegraph Office, 1846-1950
18 D A I LY L I F E I N T H E T E L E G R A P H O F F I C E Figure 7. Standard Morse key. From Pope, Modern Practice of the Electric Telegraph. required to make and break the circuit. 8 Around 1900, the Vibroplex or “bug” automatic sending key became the instrument of choice for low-strain, high-speed sending. The bug’s lever moved sideways, rather than up and down, as did the original telegraph key. Weighted contacts attached to either side of the lever caused the key automatically to produce a series of dots if the lever was moved in one direction and a series of dashes if moved in the other.
The October 16, 1871, issue of the Journal of the Telegraph gave statistics for the entire year; out of 275 applicants, 96 had been accepted as pupils; of these, 15 had resigned voluntarily and 4 had been dismissed. ”18 The Cooper Union–Western Union telegraphic school for women would provide telegraphers to the industry for over twenty years, eventually graduating as many as eighty young women a year. Graduates began at branch offices; the more skilled might end up back in New York City as operators at the Western Union central office at 195 Broadway.
The death of Lizzie Clapp struck a special chord in telegraphers, even beyond the standard Victorian-era penchant for morbidity; the case was discussed almost obsessively in the journals for months. One outcome was a renewed interest in safety; it was pointed out that the Readville office, like many others, had not been properly grounded, and no one should have been near the telegraph equipment during a storm. 37 Disease also took a toll among operators. Consumption, or tuberculosis, was often cited by the telegraphers as an occupational hazard because they spent long hours in poorly ventilated surroundings.