"Your Life's Work: Telephone and Telegraph" 1940's film

Telephone and Telegraph Traditional Jobs and Gender Roles

This 1946 occupational film by Vocational Guidance Films, Inc. has excellent clips of women working on cord switchboards. It also clearly demonstrates the expected gender roles in the work force and occupations of that era. The social progress to keep in mind is that women were considered an integral part of the economy and employment, although in restricted roles, after WWII as opposed to attitudes prior to the war.

Another viewpoint to note is the underlying assumption in the film that people are necessary to build the economy (after WWII) and the acceptance of fair exchange of labor in return for secure and stable employment.

This film was made in an era when rebuilding the economy was a priority and that building telecommunications infrastructure was considered an integral and necessary part of that. In this era, when we suddenly find ourselves in desperate need of rebuilding our economy, the current discussion is once again on infrastructure.

Rebuilding roads and bridges are necessary and would be helpful but are part of an oil and petroleum based old economy. Building out the gaps in the digital network, creating and securing seamless inter-connected networks across the continent, seems a more forward way to accomplish turning the economy around by fully bringing it into the digital age. The US has in the past pulled itself out of economic crisis by advancing science and technology, supplemented by services created by the advances.

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Listen to the "excellent opportunities available" in the "twin fields of telephone or telegraph communications...for secure life long employment."

Gender roles clearly defined: "girls...with ability and experience may be promoted to a supervisor" (and the tone is the opportunity ended there). The job description for operators, both telephone and telegraph, state "a high school diploma may be required."

although "in the early days operators were men and the service was crude"


"job opportunities for men lie in...trained technicians."
"men are also needed at the switchboards that control the circuits...as well as general executive duties"
"excellent opportunities are provided for young men to acquire business training."




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