After a period of adjustment, we [craftswomen] began to explore the building.
Often we heard rumors about the operators. One had died because she was not per-
mitted to go to the bathroom. Another had miscarried for the same reason. They had a
company union, and they wanted to join ours. Occasionally, we would see an operator
in the vending machine room when we worked nights—they were always hurried. We
never got to know them. I noticed that they were mostly young black women.
When overtime was scarce, this meant that women could not qualify for the
work. During this early period we were not particularly resentful because most of us
made more money than we ever had in any other job.
In essence, I had moved from the secondary labor market into the subordinate
primary labor market as described by David M. Gordon, Richard Edwards, and Mi-
chael Reich, Segmented Work, Divided Workers: The Historical Transformation of Labor in
the United States (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
The Bell System was composed of American Telephone and Telegraph Com-
pany (at&t) and twenty-two associated companies that provided service throughout
the United States. This study does not include the history of the operators who worked
for Independent companies.
Venus Green, ‘‘The Impact of Technology Upon Women’s Work in the Tele-
phone Industry, 1880–1980,’’ Ph.D. Diss., Columbia University, 1990. Studies re-
lated specifically to the telephone, technology, culture, and society include articles in
Ithiel de Sola Pool, ed., The Social Impact of the Telephone (Cambridge, Mass.: mit
Press, 1977); Alden Atwood, ‘‘Telephony and Its Cultural Meanings in Southeastern
Iowa, 1900–1917,’’ Ph.D. Diss., University of Iowa, 1984; Claude S. Fischer, ‘‘ ‘Touch
Someone’: The Telephone Industry Discovers Sociability,’’ Technology and Culture 29
(January 1988): 32–61; Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1988); and Claude S. Fischer, America Calling (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1992). Lana F. Rakow, Gender on the Line: Women, the
Telephone, and Community Life (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992) and
Michèle Martin, Hello Central? Gender, Technology, and Culture in the Formation of
Telephone Systems (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991) discuss the role
of women in shaping the uses of the telephone.
This study focuses on sexism and racism directed mainly against African Amer-
icans, but Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and other Spanish-
surnamed Americans, as well as homosexuals, all filed discrimination charges against
the Bell System. The usual anti-immigrant and racist ideology barred other ‘‘minor-
ities,’’ but homophobia invoked explicit regulations. For example, in 1966, New Jersey
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