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Hello Central?: Gender, Technology, and Culture in the Formation of Telephone Systems

Unlike many studies of technological development, which show women as passive victims of new technology, Hello Central? reveals the the significant impact women had on the development of telephone systems. Drawing on the rich and unexplored archives of Bell Canada in Montreal, Martin analyses the development of the telephone system in Ontario and Quebec from 1878 to 1920. Bell Telephone originally saw the telephone as a business tool for a relatively small group of male profesionals. The women who worked as operators played a key role in mediating the demands of telephone users and the limitations of the new technology. The many women who used the telephone for domestic, two-way communication eventually forced Bell to change its approach and ultimately transformed the telephone’s social impact.

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