Before the advent of typewriters, women were generally employed in factories, or as domestic servants. The typewriter, combined with business growth, and an expanding need for workers, opened up opportunities that were quickly grasped. We thought it would be interesting to look at how things changed during the late 1800s to give women a foothold in the business world.
The seeds for change were largely planted during the American Civil War. Women were employed in the treasury department to cover the wartime manpower shortage, and were able to progress from menial work trimming banknotes, into clerical and administrative roles. The US Treasurer, General Spinner, was quoted as saying that “Some of the females [were] doing more and better work for $900 per annum than many male clerks who were paid double that amount”.
After the war, with the typewriter beginning to achieve commercial success and acceptance in the workplace during the 1880s, women began to be accepted into the skilled role of stenographer. Post-war capitalism played a part in this transformation. As businesses grew, and management began to take a more analytical approach to running their organisations, demand for information to flow from the lower levels up to management grew exponentially, which led to calls for more trained typists to meet this growing need. The YWCA initially created a six-month typewriting course for eight women, then subsequently partnered with agents of the Remington company to deliver the first formal typewriter instruction. The success of these early programs soon saw large numbers of trained women enter the workforce.
It’s clear that the success of the typewriter, along with changing business practices, offered women, newly empowered by their workplace experiences in wartime, an avenue into the corporate workforce. We’ve since seen women advance into every level of business, achieving success and respect, but this would never have been possible without the early pioneers who grasped those opportunities.
At TTP we seek to carry on their good work by providing employment to women (and men) at all levels of our organisation, innovating and improving with everything we do.