There is an object in the History Center’s permanent exhibits that you probably don’t associate with women’s history. It sits alone, with holes cut out so you can admire and wonder at its tangle of wires. Of course, I am talking about the telephone switchboard on display on the second floor. The switchboard represents not just a bygone era, but also what once served as a community hub and a gateway into new employment for women.
Switchboards were a part of the telephone industry from its earliest days through the 1960s and beyond (and don’t forget the private exchanges used by businesses and other institutions). Without the technology for automatic connections, calls had to be manually connected. If you were on a party line, then you could call directly to other numbers on that line, but calls to a number on a separate line, or to an out-of-town number, required a person to physically make the connection via the switchboard.
The original switchboard operators of the late 19th century were teenage boys, which sort of makes sense, as this would have been the group that carried messages, on foot or on bikes, across towns and cities. Losing their jobs to this new industry, they were the logical choice to become switchboard operators. Alas, being teenage boys, so the story goes, they played pranks on each other and on customers and were reputed to be quite rude. Therefore, the telephone companies fired the boys and got women – polite, compliant, gracious, well-spoken women – to fill these positions instead. And while this was probably true, the underlying reason for switching to women had to be an economic one: women could be paid one-fourth to one-half of what men would have been paid. If you needed cheap, polite labor, then of course, you’d hire women, and really not think twice about it.
While I was researching Valentine’s Day in Bloomington, it was fun to discover the crossword puzzles in Bloomington’s The Evening World. Given the Bloomington connection to The New York Times crossword, I thought it would be worth taking a little closer look at their history.
I had picked the newspaper in 1925, and I was surprised to see the crossword puzzle was already a regular feature, running daily. Crossword puzzles were introduced a decade earlier, but by the mid-1920s, crossword puzzles had become extremely popular. Touting their popularity, The Evening World published an article on February 3, 1925 stating “Cross-word puzzles have captivated and possessed New York completely.” Urging its readers to give them a try, the newspaper went on to say that puzzle solvers would gain an “augmented vocabulary,” as well as it being great “brain exercise.” Ironically, while one of our local papers was pushing the puzzles by saying that they had become a craze in the big city, The New York Times had, the year before, called crossword puzzles a “primitive sort of mental exercise” and a “waste of time.”
And while for many of us it is synonymous with crossword puzzles, The New York Times was the last metropolitan newspaper to begin running a crossword puzzle as a regular feature, starting in 1942. They began with a Sunday puzzle, adding a daily one in 1950.
Happy Valentine’s Day! When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of candy, cards, chocolate, and flowers. I also think about how restaurants often have dinner specials, highlighting a wine or special foods, all designed to enhance romance. Or that I could pick up a newspaper and see recipes for making an intimate dinner at home. And of course, I think of children and those Valentine’s Day cards that are available everywhere – always have to have enough for every child in the classroom!
But I wonder, has this always been true? What would it have been like to say, live in Bloomington in the early 20th century and celebrate Valentine’s Day? To answer this question, I decided to peruse the one of the local newspapers available at that time, the Bloomington Evening World from 1925 and see what I could learn about early 20th century Valentine’s Day celebrating.
The first advertisement for Valentine’s Day shows up on February 6 with an ad for “Valentine Tokens” at Wylie’s. The ad proclaims: “Sweethearts of every age and every preference will find a truly delightful assortment of Valentine’s here” with the added reassurance: “most of them inexpensive.” Not only that, Wylie’s entices us with the promise of a window display: “Our window will interest the kiddies.” Aside from that, one other small reference appears to Valentines for sale at The Fair Store.
Lois Luette, a native of Monroe County and a daughter of Arthur Nelson and Lois (Freeman) Luette, graduated from Bloomington High School. On June 4, 1948, not long after her graduation, she married Max H. Bruce who was also a Monroe County native.
Like most young couples, they set up housekeeping, and it wasn’t long before the family included two children, Cheryl and Marc. For a while Bruce worked at RCA, and Lois took some part-time jobs with flexible hours in order to provide for the children while supplementing the family’s income.
About 1960, when the children were both in school, Bruce became a fireman and Lois took a full-time job as a dispatcher at the Bloomington Police Department. Six years later, in 1966, Lois was given a new job title and responsibilities along with her co-worker, Barbara Webb. Both women were appointed as Bloomington’s very first female police officers.
By the late 1970s, Cheryl and Marc were young adults living on their own. Cheryl moved to Arizona with her husband. Because Lois and Max wanted to be near Cheryl, they also moved to Arizona.
It was there that Max passed away in 1996, Lois in 2011. Both were subsequently returned to their native home for burial in Valhalla Memory Gardens on the west side of Bloomington.
– Bloomington Herald Telephone, January 6th 1972
– 1948 Bloomington High School Gothic
– Monroe County (In.) Marriage Records
Post Submitted by Randi Richardson (Research Library Volunteer)
Willis O. Tyler, the son of Isaac and Mary Tyler, members of Monroe County’s black community, was born in Bloomington on July 19, 1880. His parents lived on East 10th Street in what was at that time known as the “Buck Town” neighborhood. He attended Bloomington’s public schools including, undoubtedly, the Center School at 6th and Washington, the only Bloomington school designated specifically for black children.
A new edition of the 1818-1881 Monroe County Marriage Records Index is available in the library and for purchase in the museum store. The second edition, re-indexed by volunteer Lee Ehman, makes many corrections to the index originally published in 1995. Lee has also been busy digitizing our marriage records. Now records through April, 1921 are available in PDF format.
We have also added the Buildings and Houses Index to our website. This resource makes it easy to locate materials on local structures found in the library’s collection of print materials. This index was created by volunteers Lee Ehman, Beth Lau, and Ben Williams. Currently, it is only available online.
In early June 2016, Ancestry made available on their subscription website
tens of thousands of digital images of vital records from the State of
Birth Records: 1907-1940
Marriage Records: 1958-2005
Death Records: 1899-2011
While these records represent a rich and valuable resource for Indiana
genealogists, it isn’t quite as good as it sounds. For starters, this is a
monumental project, and it takes considerable time to put all the records
online. When all is said and done, however, it is expected that 17,000,000
records from these three sources will be available online. Some of the
records are up now and others are being added until the project is complete.
Those records already online are searchable.