Friday, 13 November 2020

Gender and the Residential Telephone

Abstract: Recent work on gender and technology debunks the claim that household technologies have "liberated" women from domestic work. The history of telephone use in North America suggests, however, that global conclusions about gender and consumer technologies may be misleading. Although marketed primarily as a business instrument and secondarily as an instrument to facilitate housework, the telephone was, in a sense, "appropriated" by women for social and personal ends. This paper explores the "affinity" of women for the telephone, how women in the half-century before World War II used the telephone, and why. It suggests that there is a class of technologies that women have exploited for their own, gender-linked, social and personal ends.

- Fischer, C. S. Gender and the Residential Telephone, 1890-1940: Technologies of Sociability. Sociological Forum, 3(2), 211-233.
- photograph by Helen Levitt via