While comedian Lily Tomlin will probably always come to mind as the stereotype of the telephone operator, the nation's first woman operator actually reported for work on September 1, 1878. Her name was Emma Nutt, and she stayed on the job for 33 years. Teenage boys were the first operators, but they proved to be rude to customers. Women replaced them and responded to callers quickly and courteously -- usually after just one "ringy-dingy." In 1960,, there were 420,000 telephone operators in the U.S. Advancing technology has reduced that number, so that today, less than 30,000 remain.
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