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How Secretaries Have Evolved in a Positive Way

Updated on April 12, 2016

Writer's note: when downloading photos of office secretaries from the "Retro" days through 2016, there may be a few that you find offensive. But I am only using them prove my point of how the workforce (male bosses), view secretaries today as opposed to those "bad old days." (Kenneth).

Early form of sexual harassment.
Early form of sexual harassment. | Source
Do you remember this piece of antique office equipment?
Do you remember this piece of antique office equipment? | Source

My first boss was a woman.

From Sept., 1975, (a) Monday to be exact, I was blessed, honored, and had the extreme pleasure of not only working with, but working for a woman. On "this" particular Monday was my first day of my 23 plus years in the weekly newspaper business working for the Journal Record, Hamilton Ala.

My manager, trainer, and mentor (of life and all issues relevant), was Joy Wilemon. To tell you the entire truth, she was one more beauty. Her long brunette hair coupled with her jade-colored eyes, I tell you, my mom's advice at age six: "Kenny, you be sure to treat all females with respect," was competing with my natural male tendencies to admire her and yet learn from her simultaneously.

Most secretaries have to do multi-tasking every day they work.
Most secretaries have to do multi-tasking every day they work. | Source

Do you believe that AR 7877 was needed for women employees?

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I "did" make a wise call.

After a short while, I made a wise choice (in my opinion), to listen and watch her as she taught me everything there is to know about how a weekly newspaper is produced, governed, as well as advertised to the public. This woman knew her business. That stood to reason for she told me that she had started out in that same paper as a typesetter. The second part of my wise choice was knowing that my wife and I were still newlyweds and I wanted this job to serve as my career.

I had been "railroaded" from two other jobs where politics ruled the day and me, naive as a lamb being led to slaughter, did not know anything about how crooked and vile politics in (any) workplace can really be and how many are hurt every day that comes. Especially female secretaries.

There she is. The personal secretary. She is always there for all important company decisions.
There she is. The personal secretary. She is always there for all important company decisions. | Source

Secretaries were not and are not servants.

Years passed. Joy and I became close friends. Many is the time she taught me the "best" way to set copy, write a feature piece or take a photo. Joy made it look as easy as taking a drink of water. But one thing she never did: Back down when a male customer started to "make some moves" on her with some slick phrases that she despised.

She was cordial only because she was on company time, but once I saw her tell a guy, no, a low-life, where to go and with face red and stinging from her sharp words, the jerk quickly left the premises and to my knowledge, never came back.

In private I told her how proud of her that I was. But Joy was not one for "living in the limelight," so she just humbly thanked me and that was that. I never forgot how strong she was to this male customer who obviously had never met a strong-willed woman as Joy. You should have heard him stuttering "I am sorry," and a few "forgive me's," as he ran to his car.

A "sex toy," is how most all male bosses saw female secretaries way back when.
A "sex toy," is how most all male bosses saw female secretaries way back when. | Source

There was a valuable lesson in Joy's stance.

That all secretaries, personal and otherwise, should have been taught. Joy, and not because I am prejudiced, would have made a tremendous speaker at seminars on teaching all women in the workplace--offices, factories, hospitals, the value of standing up to male jerks who foolishly-assume that just because a woman is attractive means she is ready to have a "roll in the hay" with these slithering snakes (back then) who were "kings" of America's labor force.

To confirm what I am talking about. One of my ad clients during my first few years in the paper business was a guy who was nice when he had to be, but let a pretty lady employee walk by while he and I were discussing his display ad copy, his eyes would enlarge and his mouth would open. Then he would elbow me in the ribs and state, "man, I'd love to have me a slice of that." I do not want to sound like a self-righteous zealot, but his behavior embarrassed me, a man and red-blooded male.

What a brave secretary. She is smiling and all the while knowing how bad she is treated by her male boss.
What a brave secretary. She is smiling and all the while knowing how bad she is treated by her male boss. | Source

Things changed. Thank God.

RA 7877, This Act shall known as the "Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995," not only protected, but saved a lot of women's lives, integrity and position in the workplace. In this case, I applaud the Federal Government and all who pushed for this needed-legislation to become law.

It was not a luxury. But like I said, very-needed for cases where women, pretty and otherwise, were treated as "sex toys" by male managers, supervisors and sometimes a co-worker under the veil threat of: "put out, sister, or you will be fired and not work anywhere in this town." There are women still around who will testify that I am right in this statement. Thank God for my sainted mom taking time to teach me how and why to respect all females no matter the age, color, or national origin.

"Women are special creations of God," I can still hear my mother say with a special love and firmness in her voice. Her advice found a front-row seat in my spirit and served me well over the years. But hearing how a lot of male bosses were using women for their pleasure and not allowing them equal pay or promotion, did make me nauseated, but I never told anyone because I was not a brave guy in this timeframe.

"Just another day at the office," for this over-worked, under-appreciated secretary.
"Just another day at the office," for this over-worked, under-appreciated secretary. | Source

"I" have changed.

So as a gentle-but-stern reminder to "any" man who has just been given the nod to run an office or company, may I regale my HubPages audience with this piece I am calling . . .

The Evolution of The American Secretary

Vintage ad with secretary.
Vintage ad with secretary. | Source
Time was, secretaries did EVERYTHING personal and professional, for their boss.
Time was, secretaries did EVERYTHING personal and professional, for their boss. | Source
Diagram for a personal secretary/assistant.
Diagram for a personal secretary/assistant. | Source
Another ad featuring a secretary.
Another ad featuring a secretary. | Source
A look at today's office secretary.
A look at today's office secretary. | Source

Things That Men Bosses Forced Female Secretaries To Do For Them:

  • Make and bring them a hot cup of coffee each morning.
  • Pick up their dry cleaning.
  • Make doctor and dental appointments for them, their wives and kids and sometimes take their kids to these appointments.
  • Pick up their children at school.
  • Dress very provocatively to entertain the male boss.
  • Sleep with same male boss to be given a raise or promotion that never materialized.

(And you wonder why secretaries were so "up in arms?)

How Secretaries Have Evolved in a Positive Way

Today, they only

  • Do the work described in their work contract. Contract? You bet. Some companies provide a working contract for secretaries with salary, bonus, sick days, vacation time, and strict job description in print to be agreed upon by the secretary, her lawyer (if needed), the boss, male or female, and the Human Resources rep or manager to witness the signing of the work contract by the secretary.
  • No errand running which includes: picking up the boss' children, dry cleaning, groceries, etc., or be sued by secretary for breech of contract. Ouch!
  • Absolutely no private meetings with a male supervisor or department manager unless another female is present. This is a very good part of the AR 7877 Act.
  • No force whatsoever by male or female supervisors to dress in any way that would extract anything from the secretary's personal demeanor or self-esteem.
  • No false promises made by oral means to get her into bed with the male boss. In most cases, such statements are in writing signed by the boss, a company lawyer, and Human Resources Dept., rep or manager.
  • Absolutely NO derogatory remarks about sexual nuances, situations, wardrobe, physical appearance or attributes that might be construed as sexual harassment by the female secretary.

Serious note: "I will be brief. I appreciate Joy (then) Wilemon, for being my training officer as well as my mom for her sage advice about respecting all females."

And to all females working or otherwise, "You deserve it. Respect, that is."

Not comedy. But a serious video.


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    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      My Dear MizBejabbers,

      "Well, the term, 'secretaries,' shows you just how long I have been out of the loop. My hometown still calls these needed-professionals 'secretaries,' male, female alike. As per the pay, that is still a sticky issue in 'some'places. But slowly and surely wins the race.

      I want you to know, straight-up, that I really admire you for being so tough in your radio work. In my short-lived career in radio, NO pretty female ad client EVER and I mean EVER made improper advances toward me. Tells you how women think of me, huh?

      And I have never doubted that you were nothing but an attractive woman. So you can get angry, pitch a fit for this compliment, but I meant it from my heart.

      Thank you, Sincerely, for being my Dear Friend and Follower.

      Write me anytime.


    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      2 years ago from Beautiful South

      I didn’t know there were such things as “secretaries” anymore. They are now “administrative assistants”. After guys started doing this kind of work, the pay went up (at least 21% for them), and we can’t possibly call them “secretaries”, now can we?

      The video, I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t grown up in that era. That is exactly why I decided to become a broadcaster. Office etiquette, my foot. When I did go to work in radio, I was just treated as one of the boys, which is how I wanted it. I put up with their BS and they put up with mine. We all had a good time, and nobody complained.

      I’ve encountered gender discrimination in pay, but no sexual harassment from bosses. I’m thankful that I’ve been so lucky. (And no, I ain’t that ugly!)


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