At our Women’s History Month event on March 29th, Bryn Mawr College professor Kate Thomas spoke on her own research on Kate Field (1838-1896), the 19th-century celebrity. At various times in her short career, Field was a singer, an actress, a lecturer, an entrepreneur, and a publicist. Prof. Thomas especially noted that Field was keenly savvy about new media. Alexander Graham Bell hired her in late 1877 to promote his telephone in Great Britain. On January 14, 1878, at the request of Queen Victoria, Bell presented a formal demonstration. For the event, Kate Field sang several songs to the Queen over the telephone wires. Two days later, Queen Victoria bought two of Bell’s telephones, whereupon Kate Field immediately held a press conference to gain maximum coverage in the newspapers. In her own writing, Field predicted future technological developments that sound a lot like the television and Skype. Field was so ahead-of-her-time!
Chief of Reference and Curator of Women’s History