Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Ida Cates Steel (1866-1953)

Telephone operator.

Born near Ottawa, Ontario on 20 January 1866, daughter of Adoniram Cates and Eliza Diana Hamilton (1840-1880), she came to Winnipeg in 1881 and, two years later, joined the Bell Telephone Company as its first female operator. In 1890, she married pharmacist Robert “Bob” Steel (1864-1948) and moved with him to Virden where they operated a drugstore and had a son, William Hamilton Steel (1891-1916). Poor economic conditions led them to move to Great Falls, Montana in 1893. She died there on 25 September 1953 and was buried in the Highland Cemetery at Great Falls.


Birth registration [William Hamilton Steel], Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Memories of city in ’80’s recaptured by visitors,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 October 1936, page 3.

“Male “operator” was too testy,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 February 1950, page 46.

Ida Cates Steel, FindAGrave.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 29 September 2021

Memorable Manitobans

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