ITEM: the Private Secretary, 1935. Printed on fine paper, stiff wrappers, 8x5 inches, 30pp. No illustrations. Fine condition. $35
Ref: JF Ptak Science Books Post 1261 Part of the History of Women series
It good to remind ourselves of how we got so comfortable here in the present by looking at the uncomfortable parts of the past, and remembering those people who made the sacrifices necessary to ameliorate those differences. Sometimes that spiked memory looks small but isn’t so, sometimes it’s a tidy and explosive nugget nestled in decent surroundings, but explosive nonetheless.
That’s what I found looking through this very considered, nicely designed and well written vocational pamphlet for the Katherine Gibbs School (of New York, Providence, Boston and Bermuda). The Private Secretary, Qualifications and Requirements (1935) laid out all of the necessaries for the better-placed secretary, many of which no doubt were the teaching specialty of Ms. Gibb.
The pamphlet described plenty of excellent qualities for anyone seeking any sort of employment–then or now–all of which could be supplied to any student of Ms. Gibb–I kept climbing over them looking and waiting for the now-severely-dated practices to appear. Mainly they didn’t appear in whole so much as in bits and pieces, sprinkled well throughout the work. But on the last page came this nugget, which I think pulls all of the disparate pieces together in a general statement about the position of women in the workplace in 1935:
And there you have it. A key to understanding the status of women in 1935. You'll notice that the "company policy" is generic, which means that the practice was wide-spread. And remember too that this is just for marriage--not pregnancy, which is implied in the company's dissociation with the married secretary, cutting their ties now before any pregnancy begins.
[This pamphlet is available for purchase from our blog bookstore.]