Race on the Line: Gender, Labor, and Technology in the Bell System, 1880–1980 / Edition 1

Race on the Line: Gender, Labor, and Technology in the Bell System, 1880–1980 / Edition 1

by Venus Green
     
 

ISBN-10: 082232573X

ISBN-13: 9780822325734

Pub. Date: 05/02/2001

Publisher: Duke University Press Books

Race on the Line is the first book to address the convergence of race, gender, and technology in the telephone industry. Venus Green—a former Bell System employee and current labor historian—presents a hundred year history of telephone operators and their work processes, from the invention of the telephone in 1876 to the period immediately before

Overview

Race on the Line is the first book to address the convergence of race, gender, and technology in the telephone industry. Venus Green—a former Bell System employee and current labor historian—presents a hundred year history of telephone operators and their work processes, from the invention of the telephone in 1876 to the period immediately before the break-up of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1984. Green shows how, as technology changed from a manual process to a computerized one, sexual and racial stereotypes enabled management to manipulate both the workers and the workplace.
More than a simple story of the impact of technology, Race on the Line combines oral history, personal experience, and archival research to weave a complicated history of how skill is constructed and how its meanings change within a rapidly expanding industry. Green discusses how women faced an environment where male union leaders displayed economic as well as gender biases and where racism served as a persistent system of division. Separated into chronological sections, the study moves from the early years when the Bell company gave both male and female workers opportunities to advance; to the era of the “white lady” image of the company, when African American women were excluded from the industry and feminist working-class consciousness among white women was consequently inhibited; to the computer era, a time when black women had waged a successful struggle to integrate the telephone operating system but faced technological displacement and unrewarding work.
An important study of working-class American women during the twentieth century, this book will appeal to a wide audience, particularly students and scholars with interest in women’s history, labor history, African American history, the history of technology, and business history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822325734
Publisher:
Duke University Press Books
Publication date:
05/02/2001
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
392
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Prefaceix
Acknowledgmentsxiii
Introduction1
Part 1The Beginnings of Telephony
1"Hello Central": The Beginning of a New Industry11
2"Hello Girls": The Making of the Voice with a Smile53
3The "Ladies" Rebel: Unions and Resistance89
Part 2The Dial Era, 1920-1960
4"Goodbye Central": Automating Telephone Service115
5The Bell System Family: The Formation of Employee Associations137
6The Dial Era159
Part 3The Computer Era
7Racial Integration and the Demise of the "White Lady" Image195
8Black Operators in the Computer Age227
Epilogue258
Notes265
Selected Bibliography339
Index351

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