The voice with the smile will be gone for awhile

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(Grades 4-8)


“The Voice with a Smile,” an AT&T promotional poster from 1939, CWA At Fifty: A Pictorial History of the Communications Workers of America, 1938 – 1988, 1988, p. 15.

January 2000

The American Labor Museum/

Botto House National Landmark

83 Norwood Street

Haledon, N.J. 07508

Phone: 973-595-7953

This guide and its distribution to the schools of Newark, New Jersey were made possible by a grant from the Joseph Anthony Beirne Memorial Foundation


(Grades 4-8)
The 1947 Nationwide Strike of Telephone Workers Against AT&T with Special Attention to the Women Telephone Workers of Newark, New Jersey

At 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, April 7, 1947 telephone workers of the National Federation of Telephone Workers (NFTW) and independent unions began their strike against American Telephone & Telegraph Corporation (AT&T, also known as the Bell System). The strike moved from the East to the West Coast with the sun, spreading across the country within three hours. It ended six week later- on May 21, 1947.

Nationally, this labor stoppage had several significant features. (1) It was the first nationwide walkout to occur in the telephone industry. (2) It was the largest job action undertaken by working women in the history of the United States. (Women constituted fully two-thirds (230,000) of the 345,000 striking AT&T employees.) (3) The dispute provoked debate in the U.S. Congress and in state legislature about the right of public service employees to pursue job actions which, in the opinions of some Americans, might endanger the nation’s welfare and security. (4) In June of 1947, following the strike, telephone workers dissolved their loose federation, the NFTW, and formed a strong national union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The creation of a national union was seriously discussed in 1946. The experience of the nationwide strike provided an impetus for the establishment of the modern CWA in the following year.

Historic events occurred in New Jersey. (1) The twelve thousand female switchboard operators of Newark’s Traffic Telephone Worker’s Federation (TTWF) and 2,000 women of the Accounting Workers’ Union (AWU), also based in Newark, joined together to challenge the constitutionality of a state public utility anti-strike law (the New Jersey Public Utilities Labor Disputes Act of 1946) and an hastily–added amendment to it, ordering compulsory arbitration and imposing strict criminal and civil penalties on public utility strikers and their unions. (2) AFL, CIO, and independent unions, representing one million workers in other industries in New Jersey, discussed plans for a one-day state-wide labor stoppage in support of the Newark operators and accounting workers. (3) As a group, the striking New Jersey women became a spirited and effective force. In New Jersey and across the nation, striking female telephone workers displayed unity, tenacity, and determination. As one striker recalled, “The girls were very militant; it was their first time… to really feel free.” (4) The dispute educated and empowered many New Jersey women like Mary Hanscom, the president of Newark’s TTWF who went on to win election as Eastern Regional Director at the founding convention of the CWA in June of 1947, Clara L. Allen, a shop steward at the time of the strike who ran a respectable race as a first-time candidate for the national office of Secretary-Treasurer of the CWA in 1974, and Marie E. (Radel) Scheuermann, a dedicated striker who went on to serve as president and as secretary-treasurer of Newark’s CWA Local 1006 un the 1950’s and as president of the New Jersey CIO Women’s League from 1959 to 1962. (5) Fines and jail sentences for striking public utility workers and their unions were abolished in New Jersey. While the state’s public utility anti-strike law, including the compulsory arbitration rule, remained standing at the close of the strike, many people remained standing a t the close of the strike, many people continued to call for its repeal.

LESSON PLAN (Grades 4-8)

1.) To create an historical understanding of varying economic forces, ideas, cultures, and institutions of New Jersey and the United States. 2.) To develop public-speaking, mediating, and negotiating skills. 3.) To foster in students, as future workers and perhaps union members, an awareness of the functions of labor unions.


“Unions, Families, & Communities” Homework sheet, Music and lyrics to “Old Ma Bell” and “Union Maid,” and Role-playing cards provided in the Teacher’s Guide.


Day 1:

  1. Provoke a discussion about the students’ impressions of labor unions. Post comments to questions such as:

Does anyone in you household belong to a union?

Can you name the union?

What do unions do?

Why do unions go on strike?

Would you join a union? Why or why not?

  1. As homework, assign students the task of interviewing an adult member of their household about their involvement with and views about organized labor. Ask students to complete the “Unions, Family, & Community” homework sheet.

Day 2:

  1. Review orally the responses to the homework assignment. The results of the students’ interviews will likely present the class with a view of union membership and union activity in their community. Clarify the definitions of “union” and “strike.” (A labor union is an organization that brings together individual workers for the purposes of mutual protection and self-advancement. A strike is a work stoppage until certain demands have been met.)

  1. Using the images on the Role-Playing Cards and data provided in the “background Information” section of the Teacher’s Guide1, briefly explain the national and local events of the telephone workers’ strike of 1947. Ask students t explain the position of each party involved in the dispute in New Jersey.

Day 3:

  1. Distribute Role-Playing Cards to students (extra cards can be made on a photocopier). Ask students to read their Role Card silently.

  1. Have groups of students present skits before other members of the class about the strike in Newark, New Jersey. Student s may develop scenes of various moments in the walkout such as the surrender of TTWF leaders to state officials at the Newark courthouse or the negotiation meeting held between the New Jersey operators and the telephone company. Simple props and costumes complement the project.

Day 4:

Have students do a graphic of their choice or write and perform a song or a rap song as a group to show their understanding of the issues of the strike in Newark, New Jersey. For song writing, students’ creativity may be prompted by reviewing the lyrics and melodies of “Old Ma Bell” and “Union Maid.”

Unions, Family & Community

Homework sheet

Directions: Imagine that you are a newspaper reporter whose job is to learn about labor unions in your community. Please ask an adult in your household for a few moments of their time for an “interview.” Ask them the questions that appear below and record their answers in the space provided after each question.

  1. Do you belong to a Union?_______________________________________________

  2. If yes, what is its name?_________________________________________________

  3. If no, would you like to join a union? Why or why not? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  4. Have you gone on strike? ________________________________________________

  5. If yes, what do you remember of the strike? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  6. Do you think unions are a good or bad idea today? Why? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*Illustrations from the IBEW Coloring Book.


In the years following World War II, a series of strikes ensued in major U.S. industries, including auto, agricultural implements, coal, electrical manufacturing, meat-packing, oil refining, transportation, steel, and telecommunications (manufacturing and service). Workers made sacrifices and accepted less beneficial working conditions, such as longer hours and speed-ups, during the war to support Allied troops. After the war, organized workers pressed for better working conditions. Workers also looked to employers for wage increases to offset the rising cost of living. The U.S. economy suffered from spiraling inflation following the war.

On December 19, 1946, the National Federation of Telephone workers (NFTW) announced a ten-item agenda for national bargaining with AT&T on behalf of the 287,000 Bell System workers who were members of its affiliated unions.** The NFTW called for $12 per week increase in pay for all telephone workers, a maximum 5-year wage schedule (which would give workers the top-salary in his/her classification after 5 years instead of 8), four geographical wage schedules to stabilize differentials in pay throughout the country, job descriptions to define work performed by supervisors, telephone work for telephone employees only, longer vacations (up to 4 weeks for 20 years of service), the union shop, unlimited leaves of absence for union representatives with full service credit, $100 minimum monthly pension (it was less than $50), and deduction of union initiation fees and fines, as well as dues, from company-issued paychecks.

Economic issues were important to the telephone workers and, before World War II, AT&T employees average weekly income was comparable to those of workers in other major industries. After the war, their average weekly wages were less than that of other workers. In 1947, NFTW noted that the average weekly income in the telephone industry, $43.19, was the lowest of the major industries the U.S.*** Furthermore, workers in other industries who performed comparable jobs reached maximum wage rates after shorter durations than did employees of AT&T.

Above all, however, the NFTW wanted to replace the collection of local subsidiaries in 1947 with a national contract between itself and AT&T, the parent company. National contracts had already been achieved by organized workers in the auto and steel industries. The level at which labor-management contracts were negotiated and other questions about the nature of structures of collective bargaining in basic industries were issues of key concern for labor unions in the postwar years.

Led by its president Joseph A. Beirne (1911-1974), a native of Jersey City, New Jersey, the NFTW presented its bargaining agenda early , in December of 1946, so as “to give the industry plenty of time to reach a settlement,” as Beirne stated. The recipients of the agenda was AT&T’s president Walter S. Gifford, a sixty-two-year-old New Englander, Cleo F. Craig, age 53 and vice president of personnel, and their management team.

Gifford sat at the helm of one of the nation’s richest industrial giants. According to The New York Times, AT&T had assets of over $6 billion in 1947 and held controlling interest in 22 subsidiary companies across the nation, including Western Electric Company, its manufacturing division. The Bell System owned and controlled 31.6 million telephones and 116.6 million miles of telephone wire. On an average day in 1947, it handled more than 80% of the national total of 128 million calls a day. Revenue for long distance and toll service alone in 1946 was $857,667,000, more than half the amount of local service revenues. In a letter to President Harry S. Truman, dated April 18, 1947, Joseph Beirne called AT&T “the world’s largest monopoly.” The NFTW’s claim that the Bell System dominated the telephone industry in the U.S. could not be disputed.

AT&T had a history of opposing independent union organization of its employees since the company’s formation in 1899. Its directors instituted company unions in the 1920’s and maintained personnel policies and a management style which have since been characterized as “paternal” and “benevolent despotism.” The National Labor Relations (or Wagner) Act, which became a federal law in 1935, compelled the Bell System to permit its workers to join “unions of their choosing”. In 1928, diverse telephone workers’ unions’ formed the NFTW, but Gifford refused to grant the Federation nationwide recognition. He argued that the AT&T subsidiaries were independent companies whose labor-management policies were developed at the local level. NFTW’s first president Paul Griffith paraphrased Gifford as saying that he refused to “reduce presidents of the operating companies to the role of Charlie McCarthy’s,” referring to the puppet of the popular ventriloquist Edgar Bergen.

In response to the NFTW’s ten-item agenda, AT&T made no wage offers leading up to or no the strike deadline of April 7, 1947 and it made no effort to discuss or dispute the other items on the agenda the company insisted on local bargaining and stated that its subsidiaries would not make wage offers until a pattern of increases had been set in other major industries, particularly in steel, rubber, electrical equipment, and auto manufacturing. Immediately preceding the strike deadline, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Lewis B. Schwellenbach, attempted to facilitate a settlement without success. With no contract and with NFTW members voting 15 to 1 in favor of a strike, the walkout began on 7 April at 6 a.m., Eastern Standers Time.

Since a nationwide strike in the telephone industry had never occurred, neither NFTW leaders, nor AT&T management, nor government officials knew what would happen. Telephone service was reduced considerably. According to The New York Times, long distance service functioned at about twenty percent of normal. Local service was stopped for a bout 6 million phones which had not yet converted to dial and was normal for 16.5 million dial phones. Picket lines encircled AT&T facilities across the country. Management personnel were billeted inside and were assigned to empty switchboards. For the first time in decades, telephone customers were serviced by male switchboard operators.2 AT&T instructed managers at the switchboards to put through only emergency calls. Phone service for the president of the United States was maintained. There were reports that newspapers relied on carrier pigeons and that businesses resorted to telegrams. The mayor of Englewood, New Jersey, enlisted Boy Scouts as messengers.

Prompted by postwar strikes that interrupted public services, there were debates at the federal level regarding the need for public utilities. In March of 1947, the U.S. Attorney General advised Secretary Schwellenbach that the 1942 amendments to the Communications Act provided the federal government with the authority to seize and operate telephone companies during a strike in order to protect the national interest. However, federal officials made no provisions to use an injunction to prevent the telephone workers’ walkout.** While the strike was ongoing, Congress considered legislating curbs on the power of organized workers. On June 23, 1947 (after the telephone workers’ strike had ended) the Labor-Management Relations (or Taft-Hartley) Act became law when President Truman’s veto was overridden by the U.S. senate. A section of the statute gave the president the power to intervene during “national emergency” labor disputes when the country’s health and safety were in jeopardy, in the judgment of the President.

At the state level in 1947, Virginia, Indiana and New Jersey had laws in place barring walkouts in public utilities. Telephone workers remained on the job in Virginia and Indiana and, telephone service was normal there during the strike. Many of these employees objected that they were ‘slave laborer.’ Switchboard operators in Indiana serviced their customers with this comment: “We are continuing to work against our will because of an unconstitutional state law. This is our strike too. Number please.” New Jersey workers initially defied the state’s anti-strike law, which forbade walkouts in electric and gas power, and telephone and telegraph. Most returned to work on 8 April. The 14,000 female operators and accounting workers of New Jersey Bell’s Newark facilities remained on the picket lines in defiance of the law.

AT&T employed many women. The company had a history of hiring men and women for specific jobs. Men worked in plant and engineering departments as repairmen, phone installers, cable splicers, linemen, and manufacturing workers. They were regarded as skilled craftsmen and were employed in the traffic (switchboard) and commercial departments as switchboard operators, stenographers, typists, billers, commercial contact workers, and accounting workers. They were low-paid workers, and earning $21 to $31 per week to start and $31 to $45 per week after eight years. Before many reached the top rate, they left their jobs for other employment, to marry, or to bear and raise children. Women telephone workers were a large group within the NFTE membership and had sought leadership positions in the Federation since its founding. At the time of the strike in 1947, there were female shop stewards, picket captains, elected local union presidents and other officials, and contact negotiators.

The large number of women involved in the strike in 1947 gave the dispute a distinct character. Newspapers and magazines presented the public with photographs and reports of orderly picket lines composed of spirited, attractive, and nicely dressed, whit-collar women. “(T)he fetchingest bevy of pickets that ever tripped over a subway grating,” as they were called by in the New Yorker, regularly demonstrated their strength and courage. Indeed, the women were militant strikers. For example, of the 1,001 individuals who were arrested from picket lines in Chicago in 1947, all were women with one exception. A leader of the operators’ union in Chicago said, “It was the gals who carried the strike… They’re good strikers and they hug on to the last.”

Some thought that the walkout would end after a few days, but it stretched into several weeks. Federal and state officials sought to facilitate negotiations between labor and management, but weeks passed with no progress towards a settlement. AT&T subsidiaries secured injunctions against picketing in some states and arrests were made. A telephone cable was cut in Manhattan and other acts of vandalism were reported. Striking telephone workers faced financial hardships; the NFTW had no strike fund. AT&T initiated back-to work campaigns which were successful in some areas of the country. Overall, the public remained sympathetic to the strikers, particularly to their demand for a wage increase.

The strike ended and phone service returned to normal across the nation by May 21, 1947. Telephone workers’ unions reached settlements with AT&T subsidiaries through the month of May. The NFTW cut its wage demand from $12 to $6 a week to reflect the pattern of weekly wage increase of the same amount set in late April of 1947 in the steel, auto, and rubber industries. Bell System subsidiaries began offering wage increases that were lower than the pattern to weak local unions and, the offers were accepted. Settlements with wage increases of $2 to $5 a week followed around the country. Pensions and regional and local differentials were not discussed and the demand for the union shop was rejected. The last local dispute was resolved on May 21st.

The NFTW failed to win a national contract with AT&T in 1947. In June, the NFTW was retired and a new national union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), was formed with Joseph Beirne as its president. Speaking before the delegates at the founding convention of the CWA, Beirne argued that “strikes are never lost” and that the formation of the telephone workers’ new, national union was a fundamental benefit of the 1947 strike. “We are today united in a single union,” he said, providing a single vehicle for telephone workers to use in protecting and advancing their economic and cultural standard.”

Though the Bell System suffered significant financial loss as a result of the strike, its earnings at the end of 1947 averaged better than those of the preceding year. AT&T was awarded rate increase in 24 states in late 1947 and, it shifted he added expense of the wage increases to the public.


April 7 - Republican Governor Alfred E. Driscoll seizes telephone companu facilities in accordance with the state’s year-old utility anti-strike law, the New Jerswey Public Utility Labor Disputes Act. The statute prohibits any work stoppage after the governor has taken possession of a public utility, but it prescribes no penalty for non-compliance. With Driscoll’s action, union leaders announce that their members are willing to work if the company agrees to submit dispute of all the unions’ demands to arbitration. The company refuses and New Jersey telephone workers form picket lines, defying the law.
April 8 - A bill instituting compulsory arbitration and heavy jail sentences and fines for strikers is rushed through the state legislature by Governor Driscoll in the evening hours with insufficient time for a proper public hearing. This amendment to the public utility anti-strike law was drafted by Russell E. Watson, Driscoll’s special counsel and a member of the board of directors of New Jersey Bell Telephone Company.
April 9 - Governor Driscoll signs the new bill into law at 5:10 p.m. Some telephone workers’ unions instruct their members to return to work. Newark’s Traffic Telephone Workers’ Federation (TTWF), with 12,000 women switchboard operators, and approximately 2,000 female accounting workers (Accounter Workers’ Union) announce that they will await legal advice from the NFTW Policy Committee in Washington, D.C. before disbanding picket lines and returning to their jobs. The women are willing to challenge the law. The new law threatens each of the 14,000 women workers with fines of $250 to $500, imprisonment of up to 30 days and, union fines of $10,000. Each day of the walkout constitutes a separate offense.
April 10 - The NFTW’s Policy Committee recommends that the New Jersey telephone workers proceed with their defiance of the state anti-strike law so that its constitutionality might be contested in the courts. Governor Driscoll instructs state officials to begin applying penalties under the new amendment. State officials, according to The New York Times, “declined to say what action they contemplated against the 12,000 union members (of the TTWF), all of whom were women. Union leaders said there were not enough jails in New Jersey to hold all of them.” New Jersey Attorney General Walter D. Van Riper obtains warrant for the arrest of the leaders of the TTWF. (The state utility anti-strike law does not affect New Jersey’s approximately 20,000 productions workers, represented by Western Electric Employees Association (WEEA), and 1,600 Western Electric installers, represented by the Association of Communication Equipment Workers (ACEW), who were on strike.)
April 11 - With strikers marching in front of the courthouse in Newark, the TTWF’s leaders surrender to state authorities. Mrs. Mary Hanscom, president, Mrs. Virginia Wigglesworth, vice-president, and Miss Elizabeth Ryan, secretary-treasurer, are arraigned, plead not “guilty,” are released upon posting bail of $500 each, and the TTWF is fined $10,000 (which it could not afford to pay). Across the Hudson River in New York City, a large rally is held and, a parade of telephone workers threatens to make its way into New Jersey if state authorities decide to jail strikers. Governor Driscoll gives public assurances that New Jersey officials are not considering wholesale arrests off strikers. Meanwhile, NFTW attorneys prepare to file a motion in Newark’s Federal Court to enjoin the state from “arresting our people and harassing our union with damages” based on the right-to-strike clause in the Wagner Act, the prohibition of involuntary servitude in the Thirteenth Amendment, and the due process of the law required in the Fourteenth Amendment. Russell Watson, Governor Driscoll’s special counsel, resigns as a director of the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company.
April 12 - At a meeting of representatives of unions of non-telephone workers, held in Newark, plans for a work stoppage in Essex County and the Newark area on Friday, April 18th are discussed. As talks progress, the objective is to hold a one-day strike of approximately one million members of all unions in New Jersey. The stoppage is intended to demonstrate “labor’s solidarity and resentment” against the public utility anti-strike bill.
April 14 - New Jersey Bell agrees to submit to compulsory arbitration.
April 15 - New Jersey union leaders announce that the planned statewide labor stoppage on April 18th will not take place.
April 16 - In response to the TTWF’s petition, a federal judge issues a restraining order prohibiting arrest or prosecution of strikers. The judge bases the order on a Supreme Court decision holding that the right to strike is a fundamental liberty that may not be abridged by the states “in absence of grave or immediate danger to the community.” The restraining order is to be in effect until April 23rd, when a federal 3-judge statutory court is scheduled to meet in Newark to rule on the constitutionality of the statue imposing penalties on strikers and their unions. The restraining order blocks prosecution of the three women union officials and authorizes the state to proceed with compulsory arbitration. This state-sponsored arbitration process is sow to get underway.
April 18 - Governor Driscoll meets with state labor leaders and indicates that he was willing to change and even repeal the penalty law “provided we have a workable solution of labor disputes in essential public utilities.”
April 19 - With no settlement yet in sight, the New Jersey State AFL holds a meeting in the assembly chamber of the Newark City Hall. The delegates call on Governor Driscoll to discharge his special counsel, Russell Watson. They also contribute $20,000 and pledge nearly $500,000 from their unions in the form of one hour’s pay from the 350,000 AFL members in the state to assist the strikers. The NFTW has no strike fund. Governor Driscoll proposes that the strikers return to work pending arbitration. Picket lines of switchboard operators remain in place and many members of the maintenance and commercial workers’ unions refuse to cross their lines.
April 22 - The State legislature delivers a bill to Governor Driscoll which eliminates jail sentences and reduces fines for individual strikers ranging from $25 to $250. The Governor signs it into law.

April 23 - The 3-judge federal panel issues a 28-day restraining order against New Jersey to allow the NFTW to submit briefs to the panel. With this action, New Jersey’s Attorney General announces that he was directing the Essex County prosecutor to move for the dismissal of criminal charges against Mar Hanscom, Virgina Wigglesworth, and the new Mrs. Pasquale Icliano (formerly Miss Elizabeth Ryan).
April 28 - The maintenance workers’ union (4,600 members) overwhelmingly rejects New Jersey Bell’s offer to reinstate its old contract and chooses to await the outcome of the arbitration process of the state public utility anti-strike law.
May 2 - New Jersey Bell makes its first direct offer to commercial department employees for a wage increase of $3 and $4 a week and a reduction in the wage scale from 10 to 8 years.
May 6 - Commercial employees accept the offer.
May 7 - Switchboard operators represented by Newark’s TTWF begin direct negotiations with New Jersey Bell. The company proposes $3 and $4 a week increases, offers that are not well received.
May 11 - After a weekend of intensive negotiations, New Jersey Bell and the operators agree on an average increase of $4.70 a week (including basic increases of $3 and $4), which, according to The New York Times, proved to be the highest amount won by any affiliate of the NFTW involved in the strike. The company also agrees to increases in evening and night wage differentials, severance pay, and a reduction in the wage scale from nine to eight years. Mary Hanscom is the chief union representative at the negotiations which are held in Newark.
May 13 - Newark’s TTWF membership votes to approve the agreement an, its leadership reports that members will return to work at midnight. Members, however, continue to respect picket lines of New Jersey Western Electric employees. The operators union is one of the few to do so until the electrical workers’ disputes are resolved on May 15.
May 15 - New Jersey operators return to their jobs, restoring normal telephone service to the state for the first time since the strike began roughly five weeks earlier.
June 9–12 – Mary Hanscom is elected Eastern Regional Director (one of four regional directors) of the newly formed Communications Workers of America (CWA).
July 3 - The federal 3-judge statutory panel prohibits the TTWF from testing the New Jersey utility anti-strike law before a federal court pending the disposition of a similar test case in the New Jersey courts.
July 22 - The arbitration committee under the public utility anti-strike law delivers its first ruling. It awards maintenance workers a general increase of $4.5k0 per week.

August 20 - Governor Driscoll signs an executive order returning facilities of New Jersey Bell to company operation.
December 8 - Having appealed the Federal District Courts decision of July 3rd to the Supreme Court, the TTWF received the Supreme Court’s decision: With Justices Hugo Black and Stanley Reed dissenting, the Court refuses to involve itself in the operators’ union fight against the public utility anti-strike statue until the New Jersey courts have ruled on the union’s suit.

1963 - Mary Hanscom retires as Director of District 2, CWA (one of seven national districts.)



  1. New Jersey Bell Telephone Company Headquarters, 50 Broad Street

  2. New Jersey Bell exchange, Washington Street & Branford Place

  3. Essex County Court Building

  4. Traffic Telephone Workers’ Federation (TTWF) Headquarters, 11 Hill Street

Barbash, Jack, Unions and Telephones, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1952.

Brooks, John, Telephone: The First Hundred Years, New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Brooks, Thomas R., Communications Workers of America: The Story of a Union, New York: Mason/Carter, 1977.

CWA at Fifty: A Pictoral History of the Communications Workers of America, 1938 – 1988, Washington, D.C.: Communications Workers of America, 1988.

Conroy, Catherine, “Somebody Has to Have the Guts,” in Joyce L. Kornbluh and Brigid O’Farrell, Rocking the Boat: Union Women’s Voices, 1915 – 1975, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1996, pp. 231 – 256.

Foner, Philip S., Women and the American Labor Movement: From World War I to the Present, New York: The Free Press, 1980.

Gutman, Herbert G., Who Built America? Working People & The Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture, & Society, New York: Pantheon Books, 1982. 2 vols.

Kessler-Harris, Alice, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States, New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Park, Alvin Loren, “The National telephone Strike, 1947,” MA Thesis, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, 1948.

Schacht, John N., The Making of Telephone Unionism, 1920 – 1947, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1985.

“’The Voice with a Smile will be Gone for A While:’ A Report on the 1947 Nationwide Strike of Telephone Workers Against AT&T with Special Attention to the Women Telephone Workers of New Jersey,” Haledon, New Jersey: The American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark, 1998.

Sources of additional information:
The American labor Museum/

Botto House National Landmark

83 Norwood Street

Haledon, New Jersey 07508

Phone: 973-595-7953
The Newark Public Library

New Jersey Information Center

Main Library -3rd Floor

5 Washington Street

Newark, New Jersey 07102

Phone: 973-733-7775

The CWA Archives

Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Of the Tamiment Institute Library

New York University

70 Washington Sq. South

New York N.Y. 10012

Phone: 212-998-2640

(by appointment)

The Teacher’s Guide & Lesson Plans were written by Evelyn M. Hershey, M.A., Certificate in Museum Studies, with the direction of Angelica M. Santomauro, Ed.D., Project Director. Special gratitude is extended to New Jersey Bell Telephone Company and Western Electric retirees who kindly shared their memories of the 1947 strike.


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If you are interested in learning more about educational programs and resources offered to schools by the museum, please call 973-595-7953.

1 You may wish to consult the “Bibliography” of this Teacher’s Guide to locate additional information about the strike.

* Note to the Teacher: To facilitate the use of the activities in the Teacher’s Guide, an overview of the events of the telephone workers’ walkout with special attention to the women telephone workers of New Jersey is presented here. Several books discuss the nationwide strike of 1947 in the context of the history of the CWA and the American Labor Movement. The “Bibliography” of this Teacher’s Guide lists some of these publications as supplemental reading for teachers and students. A book about the dispute in New Jersey remains to be written.

** AT&T had a total of 617,000 employees in 1947. Women constituted 380,000 individuals in this workforce.

*** This figure represents the average weekly earnings in the telephone industry as of January 1947. By March of 1947 the average fell to $42.51.

2 Adolescent boys, sometimes experienced as telegraph clerks, were hired as the first switchboard operators. Sometimes, the boys were impatient with customers and engaged in horseplay. They found the job tedious. Women, considered to be calmer and of pleasant demeanor, were hired in their place in the late nineteenth century.

** A coal miners’ strike was halted in December of 1946 with a federal injunction.

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