On This Day…

On the 1st September 1878 Emma Nutt became the first female telephone operator

Emma started work in Boston, USA. In January of that year the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company had started hiring boys as telephone operators. They had proved very successful as telegraph operators but their attitude, lack of patience and behaviour – pranks and cursing – were unacceptable for live phone contact. The company began hiring women operators instead.

The customer response to the soothing, cultured voices and patience of women was overwhelmingly positive, so boys were soon replaced by women.


Women in the war

During the First World War in 1917 the Army found it was running short of men and so the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), later known as the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC) was formed. The aim of QMAAc was to find women volunteers to fill a variety of non-combat roles.

By the end of the war more than 50,000 women had joined. Those with previous experience
as telephonists were employed as telephone operators and telegraphists, releasing men to perform other duties. They wore blue and white signaller’s armbands.


Women deemed quick, accurate and skilful

A post-war report for the Post Master General described women as being ‘quicker and more accurate, more deft and skilful in manipulation, more assiduous in attention to signals, more responsive to exceptional demands at times of pressure and more ready to learn and use the standard expressions’.

Roger So Far

The Corps Centenary book ‘Roger So Far” celebrates many of the Corps’ achievements during its first 100 years.

This hardback, illustrated coffee table book is packed full of stories about people, units and events in the context of campaigns, technologies and equipment. RRP £30 with discounts for Regular, Reserve and Retired Corps members.

Buy now from the Royal Signals Museum Shop