The Lumber Room

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Archive for March 2nd, 2010

Women enter the workplace

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In 1874, less than 4% of clerical workers in the United States were women; by 1900, the number had increased to approximately 75%.
from today’s featured article on Wikipedia, to which my only contribution was cheering a bit when it was being written.

It can be argued whether C. Latham Sholes, the inventor of the (first successful) typewriter, was the saviour of women, but there can be no doubt that the typewriter was one of the most major factors in changing their role.

Relevant section on Wikipedia.

Of course, there were ugly side-effects. The entry of women was resented, and there were endless cartoons insinuating that these secretaries were cheating with their employers whose wives were at home. This was compounded by the manufacturers’ own marketing, which (as has always been the case) consisted of women in provocative pictures. The book Sexy Legs and Typewriters collects some “non-pornographic vintage erotic images” from the period.

And only a couple of decades later, when Ottmar Mergenthaler, “the second Gutenberg”, invented the linotype machine and changed typesetting forever, the printers were prepared, and banded together to prevent women from “taking their jobs”. They even succeeded, for a while.

For a brief while, when you bought a typewriter, a woman came with it.

Barbara Blackburn’s record, for being the fastest typist in the world, was using the Dvorak keyboard. Obviously. :-)


Written by S

Tue, 2010-03-02 at 20:48:52

Posted in history

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