Women in History IV: Working women

Telephone central office. Switching room and telephonists. Milan. Italy. Engraving. Coloured. ©Prisma/Ancient Art & Architecture Collection

Telephone central office. Switching room and telephonists. Milan. Italy. Engraving. Coloured.
©Prisma/Ancient Art & Architecture Collection

Today, debates continue about how women can gain equal access to power and work. Our final image is an early representation of the telephone switchboard in Milan. It is reported that when this job first appeared in the 1870s it was that of teenage boys. However they became frustrated with the long hours and misbehaved. Thus women were recruited (factfiend.com) and became the backbone of the job for many years to come. While this is an example of women being given a job with low status and low pay, clearly the job could become very challenging, especially when the number of people using the system increased and telephone companies, mindful of the operators’ direct communication with the public, exercised strict selection criteria to decide if women could gain employment in this technical domain (Engineering and Technology History Wiki).



現在、女性は男性と平等な権力や職業を得られているかどうか、討論が絶えません。今月最後のイメージは19世紀、ミラノ、電話の交換台で働く女性を描いたものです。1870年代に現れたこの職業に就いたのは、十代の少年だったといわれています。しかし彼らは長い労働時間で嫌気がさし、仕事に対する労働態度が悪くなりました。このように、少年たちに代わって採用された女性は、後年この職業の重要な役割を果たすようになります。これは女性が地位や賃金の低い職業を与えられた例ですが、この職業も多大の努力を要し、非常に難しいものになることもあります。特にこの通信システムを使う人々が増え、オペレーターの一般市民との直接交信に重きをおいた電話会社が、女性が技術的な分野でこの職業に就けるかどうかの決定に厳しい選択条件をつけた場合などが考えれます。