DEEMED TOO DELICATE FOR ERECTING TELEPHONE POLES and laying cables, women were relegated to uncomfortable chairs and repetitive-injury-inducing switchboard tasks. They had to “always smile when speaking” and remain single. The Telephone Museum of New Mexico, in downtown Albuquerque, describes the ways that Alexander Graham Bell’s invention changed the state, but it also delivers a sobering lesson about the evolution of “women’s work” in the 20th century. “Some of the early safety and ergonomic improvements in all industries came about because of the Bell System,” says Susie Turner, a longtime Mountain Bell employee and the museum’s director and treasurer. Housed in a former Bell building, the museum features four floors of exhibits that detail how quickly technology morphed from telegraphs to smartphones. It also illuminates the legends of several women operators whose actions saved lives. In 1916, despite wounds she received from flying glass, Susan Parks successfully rallied the cavalry when Pancho Villa invaded the town of Columbus. Uncomfortable chair and all.

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Visit the Telephone Museum of New Mexico, 110 4th St. NW, in Albuquerque, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.