Saturday, 3 June 2000

From "Modernity, labour and the typewriter"

By Morag Shiach.

[Margery Davies] points to a range of factors that led to the expansion of office work in the early twentieth century: the increase in the size of major companies, the development of national and international markets, the growth of marketing and of "scientific management" all produced greater volumes of clerical work [...] this requirement was partly met by women, who were anyway cheaper labour [...] Many writing machines were invented before Sholes's, but his was developed at a time when the expansion of office work meant that investment in this new technology could be secured. The entry of mowen to the office and the development of the typewriter were thus related, but the entry of women into the office was by no means an inevitable result of the invention of the technology [...]

Women's entry into the office and their increasing role as typists were seen as neither natural nor inevitable. It is, however, the case that the percentage of women among clerical workers increased dramatically in the first half of the twentieth century, from 13.4 in 1901 to 59.6 in 1951 [...]

Women's entry into the office coincided with a broad reorganisation of clerical work and the production of a much more rigid office hierachy. The distinction between the secretary and the typist was crucial at this point: the "secretary" was still more likely to be a man until at least the 1920s and there was little mobility between the two grades.

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