Part of the research for this project focuses on a special category of ESB staff, that of the electrical demonstrators. Mostly young women with domestic science or catering training, they played two roles within the organisation – doing public demonstrations and home visits to new owners of large electrical appliances. The first group of electrical demonstrators were recruited in the early 1950s, and mostly had qualifications in catering from Cathal Brugha Street college, or had trained as domestic science teachers.
I’m really interested in the demonstrators because they played an unusual role in Irish society in the 1950s and 1960s – they were professionals with a lot of knowledge about electrical appliances and household management, but also young women who were able to talk to other women on an informal basis about technical subjects where they might lack confidence. They were seen as less intimidating than the engineers, who were male technical experts, and managed to combine this approachability with a glamour that has been compared to air hostesses.
If you were an ESB demonstrator in the 1950s or 1960s, or you know someone who was, please do get in touch, as we’d love to hear from you about the experience of working with the Irish public in this capacity!