In landline railroad telegraphy, operators traditionally had referred to each other as OM (“old man”). The term YL was coined in 1920 by the American Radio Relay League for young ladies of all ages, as “OM will not fit and OL would certainly be most inapplicable.”
The first known North American YL operators include Miss M. S. Colville, XDD, of Bowmanville, Ontario in 1914 and Emma Chandler of St. Mary’s, Ohio (8NH, W8NH) in 1915. The first women to be licensed as radio amateurs in the United Kingdom were Barbara Dunn G6YL and Nelly Corry G2YL in the early 1930’s.
The Young Ladies’ Radio League, a US-based group created expressly for women in amateur radio, was established in 1939 with membership both in North America and worldwide. The CW abbreviation “33”, which means “love sealed with friendship and mutual respect between one YL and another YL”, was coined by Clara Reger, W2RUF and adopted officially by YLRL in 1940. The first YLRL convention was held in Santa Monica, CA on June 24-25, 1955.
A poem about the origin of the YL 33, “Birth of the Thirty-Three”, was written in honor of Clara Reger and her accomplishments both in the establishment of the YLRL and her longtime efforts to teach Morse code to new operators.
(From Margaret Dunn, KC7LXS, who got it from Terrie, AB7PX – original author is unknown.)
- Clara had her ticket
- She also had a rig
- Because she was just startin
- It wasn’t very big.
- She slowly tuned the crystal,
- And watched the meter drop.
- Then tapped the key a couple times
- To be sure it wouldn’t stop.
- Now everything was ready.
- She called a short CQ
- And received an answer
- On thirty-six sixty-two.
- They chewed the fat ‘bout stuff and things.
- ‘bout dresses, work and dates.
- They finally called it QRT
- The girl sent eighty-eights.
- Clara thought it might funny
- Whether it be Miss. or Mrs.
- To end a perfect QSO
- By sending “Love and Kisses”
- It sounds too sentimental;
- Just a little too much “goo”
- To be sending “Love and Kisses”
- To a girl the same as you.
- For an entire week she pondered;
- Wouldn’t even touch the rig.
- She pushed her slide rule by the hour,
- Employing “logs” and “trig”.
- She added and subtracted.
- What could the answer be?
- To reach a happy medium
- Twixt eighty-eight and seventy-three.
- Clara finally looked up from her work
- All smiles and not forlorn.
- Twas July in Nineteen Forty
- That thirty-three was born.
- There’s no real definition
- But it’s meaning is known well.
- It’s how a YL says good evening
- To another friend YL.
Terms referring to ham operators or their families
Terms used to refer to amateur radio operators or their families include:
- Ham – Radio Amateur
- YL (young lady) – Lady Radio Amateur
- OM (old man) – Gentleman Radio Amateur
- XYL – Wife of a Ham
- YL Fundamental – Mother of a Ham
- OM Fundamental – Father of a Ham
- Side Band – Brother/Sister of a Ham
- Upper Side Band – Elder Brother/Sister of a Ham
- Lower Side Band – Younger Brother/Sister of a Ham
- Harmonics – Children
- Crystal controlled – Getting Married
- Silent key – Deceased operator
- PI4YLC Dutch YL Committee
- RZ9MYL Radioclub “Pulsar”
Scandinavia (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden)
- The British Young Ladies Amateur Radio Association (BYLARA) was founded in April 1979 to further YL operating in Britain
- Buckeye Belles, Ohio
- W9YL Chick Factor, Indianapolis, Indiana
- K9CAT Crossroads of America Amateur Radio Ladies Association (CAARLA), Terre Haute, Indiana
- Colorado YL’s
- Quarter Century Wireless Women
- The Auto State YL’s, Michigan
- Women Radio Operators of New England
- Young Ladies’ Radio League (YLRL)
YL World (the Worldwide YL Meeting)
- The YL’s Unite: The story of the YLRL, QST, May 1940
- HISTORY OF YLRL (1939-1958) from “CQ-YL, The Story of Women in Amateur Radio”, Louisa B. Sando W5RZJ, Santa Fe NM, 1958
- The First ‘YL’, QST, September 2002
- Surfin’: A Woman’s World, Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, Contributing Editor, ARRL, August 29, 2003
- More women drawn to ham radio, Sarah Friesen, The Oregonian, March 19, 2009