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Description - Race on the Line by Venus Green

"Race on the Line" addresses the convergence of race, gender, and technology in the telephone industry. Venus Green - a former Bell System employee and present labour historian - presents a 100-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 succesful struggle to integrate the telephone operating system but faced technological displacement and unrewarding work. An important study of working-class American women during the 20th century, this book should appeal to a wide audience, particularly students and scholars with interest in women's history, labour history, African American history, the history of technology, and business history.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780822325734
ISBN-10: 082232573X
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x mm)
Pages: 392
Imprint: Duke University Press
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publish Date: 2-May-2001
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Venus Green

Venus Green is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the City College of New York. From 1974-1990, she was employed by New York Telephone Company as a switching equipment technician.