Personal Observations of Secretaries Then and Now
This is a piece in praise of
No, secretaries do not look like this either
It was a big deal when women got the vote on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified freeing all females to have the same right (as men) to vote for the candidate of their choice, or even to vote for their favorite candidate who turned out to be a liar, a jerk, and able to talk out of both sides of his mouth. (Note: I used the word “his” because the percentage of females who ran for political office in the 20’s was embarrassingly-low).
Now skip ahead to the 1950’s when a woman dressed like Donna Reed, pearls and all, stood in her kitchen, after serving her husband and family another feast, and looked directly into her husband’s eyes and said, “Hal, you work. Why can’t I work?” Oh, wouldn’t you have loved to be a slice of bacon on a platter to hear that exchange?
You want to hear more of that exchange between housewife, “Dottie,” and husband, “Hal”?
Taking dictation is still a part of the secretaries' job
More from "Dotty" and "Hal"
Hal: “Dotty,” get some sense. I am a man. It’s my place to support you and the kids. Who has poisoned your mind? Ohh, I get it. Some of those soap operas you watch between chores during the day—they are trying to brainwash you.”
Dotty: “No, huuneee, it’s not like that at all. I just want more for my life. Not that I do not enjoy cooking, cleaning, and being your wife and the kids’ mother, but for me personally, I just feel that I can work as a secretary in the city—we can still have a family and love life, Hal. Please, let me get a secretary’s job?”
Hal: “Sooo, I see it now. It’s all too clear. You want to sleep with bosses like those women in your Hollywood Digest magazine. Well, no dice, sister. You are NOT working as a secretary or anything else. That’s final.”
And it was final for “Hal.” He had forgotten that “Dotty,” had loads of secretarial skills that she used as a single woman working in the local elementary school office before she met him and gave up her typing, filing, and greeting the public.
In the next two weeks, things changed drastically for “Hal” and “Dotty.” She “did” get a lucrative secretary’s job paying her $125.00 a week with options for company-paid life insurance and other benefits. “Hal,” thanks to his stubborn male pride, filed for divorce and moved to New Jersey, quite a change from living in Cleveland, Ohio, but that’s the breaks. “Hal’s” and “Dottie’s” kids stayed with “Dotty,” and “Hal” called them once a week to keep his fatherly-image intact.
"If I had worn my good suit, she would have let me see the boss."
Drastic changes mean forward progress
Secretaries then, in the “old days,” 1950’s to be exact, looked like cardboard-cut-out’s. They all wore their hair the same way: bangs, swept back and flipped at the ends, little make-up, for no American company (then) wanted new clients to see a whore as the first person who greets them, and dresses, below the knees, and definitely no pants. And high heels, which was standard-equipment for all up and coming secretaries.
Secretaries now, in the “modern days,” 2014 to be exact, look as individual as the rainbow. No two secretaries, even male secretaries, yeah, now we got male secretaries, dress alike. All secretaries look professional, relaxed, and sharp-minded as an early IBM computer. Secretaries, just women, only wear high heels if they choose. It’s not a rule cut into granite.
Facts about Early Secretaries:
- These girls not only typed, filed, took dictation from her boss, but worked on weekends, made coffee every morning, picked-up the boss’ dry cleaning and lunch if he wanted, and even carried his kids to doctor’s appointments when necessary.
- Secretaries were feared by all “Road men,” or travelling salesmen. They were the first person they seen when entering a potential client’s office. Thanks to early secretaries, sales of Listerine and other breath-fresheners sky-rocketed and the traders on Wall Street came home with bags of cash.
- One secretary could make or break any salesman, product rep, or an old college buddy who just wanted to hang-out with the boss to relive those days of midnight panty raids and drinking homemade moonshine smuggled into their dorm. The secretary had the power to say, “He’s not in, (referring to her boss), but you can leave a message.” And the doofus would do just that. Leave his name and number for her to give to her boss, but as soon as his butt cleared her office, she conveniently dropped the note into her trash. Boom! Another successful sale “down the tubes.”
- Secretaries in the 50’s may not have looked the part, but underneath their feminine warfare laid the heart of a Great White shark. When a “newbie,” girl bounced into the secretarial pool and posed a threat to the rest of the secretaries “paying dues” to be chosen by an executive “on the carpet,” all she had to do was drop a few negative remarks into the right ear and bam! The sweet little “newbie,” was gone to seek employment elsewhere—maybe being an Avon lady, not a bad gig, but terrible on the legs.
Early forms of sexual harassment
Secretaries of today: "More power to you!"
Facts about Today’s Secretaries:
- “Mr. Cocky Ink Pen Salesman,” you do not bully your way into seeing the purchasing agent if the secretary says, “he’s not in today,” without looking up from her typing. No amount of begging, crying, deal-making or favors-offered will get you entrance to the one man whom your job depends on. Oh, she will give him your name and note and you pray to God as you leave that she will be decent-enough to give it to the purchasing agent, but you will spend a few sleepless nights for you know how her kind works. Maybe if you had worn a better suit or cologne, she would have been more flexible. You know what’s funny? The purchasing agent was in his office all of the time.
- Today’s secretaries do not make coffee for anyone.
- Today’s secretaries are not referred to as a “Girl Friday,” and can sue the boss or even the C.E.O. for sexual harassment.
- Secretaries of 2014 do not do personal errands for the boss, C.E.O, or even their closest female friend who runs the Human Resources Department.
"Buzz," I'm not that type of girl. I need to keep my integrity intact even off of the job."
Secretaries have changed. Get used to it.
In short, the changes in secretaries of the 50’s to 2014 are as visible as daylight and dark. The women who made-up a vital part of the workforce (and still do) pioneered the way for women to be empowered, anointed, and given that inner-confidence to boldly say, “I am an important employee at my company, but I am also a woman too.”
These women have the best of both worlds and we men might as well face up to the facts that the day of a little flirting with “Miss Donaldson,” the single-gal out front, will gain you entrance to the boss whom you can lie to about your so-called “time-saving” business machine garnering you a huge sales commission and a bottle of the finest whiskey for the boss.
Words and Phrases Not to be Used with Today’s Secretaries:
- Love that dress—just short enough to drive me nuts
- I could just kiss you all over
Make a note, male salesmen. If you dare to be stupid enough to use one or all of these dangerous words or phrases, then you must not fear being sued by a mousy-looking secretary named “Lilah,” seeking justice for sexual harassment thrown at her by you, who will most assuredly lose your job, respect in the community, church and at home.
Wake up, men still living in the past. Times have changed.
Secretaries, be it personal secretaries or assistants to the boss or office manager, they are not just “an” important part of their company.
These women are THE most-important part of their companies.