Family History

The Illinois Bell Girls

Joyce Marfell as Miss Voice, 1952In a previous post, I mentioned I discovered my mother had never graduated high school. She quit right after turning 16 and started working at Illinois Bell as a telephone operator. I am thinking she chose Illinois Bell because her Aunt Sophie worked there. (Unfortunately I was never really told what my Aunt did there other than serve as a union steward.) Anyway, in 1952, when my mom was 20 years old, she won the Illinois Bell Miss Voice contest for our area. It must have been a big deal for her because we heard stories about her experience many times during her lifetime. And there was always this huge poster of her as a telephone operator hanging in our basement.

After my Aunt Sophie passed away in 2000 and my mom passed away in 2003, I was left their photos. Within these family pictures were several of people who worked for Illinois Bell. Many pictures were of work-related events. Unfortunately I only knew a few people in the photos from the times when my mom would go through pictures with me. But one day I was talking to a friend of my mom’s, Rita Griffin, and I told her about the photos. She said she still met with some of the women who used to work at Illinois Bell and could probably figure out who some of the people in the photos were. So thanks to her, I now have some of them identified. I uploaded them to Flickr here ( in case anyone saw a relative (you have to click the photo to see the names). There is one photo that seems very old, but unfortunately Rita was not able to identify anyone in that picture.

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