Emma Nutt – Wikipedia

World’s first female telephone operator

Emma Nutt

Emma Nutt circa 1878-1900.jpg
Born July 1860
Died 1915 (aged 54–55)
Occupation Telephone Operator
Known for World’s first female telephone operator
In 1900, Emma, her parents, her sister Stella, and Stella’s husband, William G Evart, and 10-year-old son, Arthur C Evart, were living together in Chelsea, Massachusetts [1]

Emma Nutt (July 1860 – 1915)[2] became the world’s first female telephone operator on September 1, 1878, when she started working for the Edwin Holmes Telephone Despatch [sic] Company[3] (or the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company[4]) in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

Life and career

In January 1878, the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company had started hiring boys as telephone operators, starting with George Willard Croy.[5] Boys (reportedly including Nutt’s husband[2]) had been very successful as telegraphy operators, but their attitude (lack of patience) and behavior (pranks and cursing) were unacceptable for live phone contact,[6] so the company began hiring women operators instead. Thus, on September 1, 1878, Nutt was hired, starting a career that lasted between 33[7][8] and 37[9] years, ending with her retirement sometime between 1911[10] and 1915.[9] A few hours after Nutt started working, her sister Stella became the world’s second female telephone operator, also making the pair the first two sister telephone operators in history.[3][11] Unlike her sister, Stella only remained on the job for a few years.[10]

The customer response to her soothing, cultured voice and patience was overwhelmingly positive, so boys were soon replaced by women. In 1879 these included Bessie Snow Balance, Emma Landon, Carrie Boldt, and Minnie Schumann, the first female operators in Michigan.[4]

Nutt was hired by Alexander Graham Bell, who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone; apparently she changed jobs from a local telegraph office. She was paid a salary of $10 per month for a 54-hour week.[5] Reportedly, she could remember every number in the telephone directory of the New England Telephone Company.[5]


This scene from “Bold Experiment – the Telephone Story”, depicts the first women operators, Emma and Stella Nutt, working alongside boy operators at the Edwin Holmes Telephone Despatch Co. Boston, Massachusetts in 1878.[12]

“EMMA”, a synthesized speech attendant system created by Preferred Voice and Philips Electronics[13] is named in her honor.[5]

1 September is unofficially commemorated as Emma M. Nutt Day.[8]

See also


  1. ^ “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M9YT-VS3 : 6 March 2015), Emma Nutt in household of George W Nutt, Precinct 1 Chelsea city Ward 1, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States; citing sheet 9B, family 188, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,240,689.
  2. ^ a b Fernandes, Carlos. “Emma Nutt” (in Portuguese). Federal University of Campina Grande. Archived from the original on August 19, 2017. Retrieved February 17, 2010.[better source needed]
  3. ^ a b Colleen Fitzpatrick (April 7, 1927). “Forensic Genealogy, Who is Emma M. Nutt?”. Forensicgenealogy.info. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  4. ^ a b “AT&T, Media Info, SBC Michigan Recognizes 125 Years of Telephone Operators, Personal Service, Michigan, San Antonio, Texas, October 31, 2003”. AT&T. October 31, 2003. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Petersen, J.K. (May 29, 2002). The Telecommunications Illustrated Dictionary (second ed.). CRC Press. p. 696. ISBN 9781420040678. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  6. ^ “PBS American Experience, The Telephone”. pbs.org. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  7. ^ “About this date – 1st September, 1878”. Hicards. Archived from the original on October 27, 2013. Retrieved February 17, 2010.[unreliable source?]
  8. ^ a b “Holiday insights, Emma Nutt day”. Holidayinsights.com. Retrieved February 17, 2010.[unreliable source?]
  9. ^ a b “130 Years of the Telephone”. AT&T. Archived from the original on May 29, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  10. ^ a b “New Hampshire Telephone, “It’s for You!”, by Carole Soul” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 8, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  11. ^ Kate Schnedeker. “The Newsletter of the Montgomery County chapter of the National Organization for Women” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 18, 2008. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  12. ^ “The Telecommunications History Group. Operators. Scene from “Bold Experiment – the Telephone Story”. Telcomhistory.org. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  13. ^ “KMC Telecom Launches CLEC Industry’s First Voice Activated Speech Recognition and ‘Follow Me’ Calling Services” (Press release). Business Wire. February 21, 2000. Retrieved February 17, 2010.