Secretary History

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Lynn Peril, secretary and author of Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in The Office, talks about the history of the secretary and the evolution of the position from an office wife to an executive-in-training.


Lynn Peril

Comments [15]

REAL jersey shore from NJ

Knock it off Becky.
No one is using it as a demeaning term. And truthfully, at 55 I don't like being told I'm obsolete !
(business owner and secretary when needed)

Jun. 02 2011 12:04 PM
Janine from Manhattan

I'm a legal secretary and have been for almost 20 years. In this economy, I know several attorneys making less money than I do. It's a great job!

Jun. 02 2011 11:58 AM
Susan from Queens

As a follow-up to that last comment, not all my bosses were female. In fact, my very first job out of college in 1984 was at a Madison Avenue ad agency when I was 21 years old. During the year & a half that I stayed in that job, yes, my MALE boss made several inappropriate comments, which I took as par for the course (although before moving on from that job, I informed HR that he had made sexual references that made me really uncomfortable... he was eventually let go, I heard later). But I very much remember taking memos, using my shorthand, getting coffee, and using a word processor and electric typewriter! Eventually, they started calling secretaries Administrative Assistants.

Jun. 02 2011 11:57 AM

I just have to add that when I went from being a temp admin assistant to the internship with the Population Health and Nutrition department, I actually had to down dress for my internship position. The admin assistants always dress MUCH better than the professionals. One of my professors was HORRIFIED that I did the temp work. Apparently she must have had family to cover her bills when she was in graduate school.

Jun. 02 2011 11:56 AM
Jeff from NYC

Until WWI, the women who typed were CALLED "typewriters"

Jun. 02 2011 11:56 AM
Laura from UWS

Phi Beta Kappa, M.A. and looking for a job in the early 1970s. Everyone asked: "Can you type?" I was confused because I could already type when I was 9 years old.

Nobel Prize winner was a secretary:
"Dr. Yalow told an interviewer. “They told me that as a woman, I’d never get into graduate school in physics,” she said, “so they got me a job as a secretary at the College of Physicians and Surgeons and promised that, if I were a good girl, I would take courses there.” The college is part of Columbia University.

World War II and the draft were creating academic opportunities for women; to her delight, Dr. Yalow was awarded a teaching assistantship at the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. She tore up her steno books and headed to Champaign-Urbana, becoming the first woman to join the engineering school’s faculty in 24 years."

Jun. 02 2011 11:56 AM
The Truth from Becky

Only if you are over 60 yrs old are you still using the term secretary!

Jun. 02 2011 11:55 AM
Sandra from Montvale, NJ

In my office we're "admins". The culture of the business is so high tech my boss is essentially self sufficient, I'm here to support a team of 30 people, supplies, meeting set up, etc. I even get to work remote @ home one day a week

Jun. 02 2011 11:54 AM
The Truth from Becky

The word "secretary" is OBSOLETE...let it go..only in government does the term still exist!

Jun. 02 2011 11:53 AM
Ana from Manhattan

My husband is a secretary at a large law firm. He's a writer and it's a terrific day job with great benefits.

Jun. 02 2011 11:53 AM

Consider Hillary Clinton. She applied for an executive position and we made her our Secretary.

Jun. 02 2011 11:52 AM

This is a hilarious topic. When I was getting my Masters degree from Johns Hopkins, I worked first as a temp admin assistant at the International Monetary Fund until I got my internship working with the Population Health and Nutrition section of the World Bank. One of my bosses was a Belgian guy with lots of girlfriends. So part of the job was to know how to fend off the girlfriends and/or the wife depending on their status at the moment. All the bosses at the IMF were astounded when I announced I was going to work for the Population Health and Nutrition Department.

Jun. 02 2011 11:51 AM
M Takeshi from New York

This is not the past! This is still the case in Japan!

Jun. 02 2011 11:50 AM
Jodie from NJ

Just wanted to say I am not a secretary, I am a draftsperson and designer, but because I am a woman and I sit near the front door, people often tell my boss how nice the secretary is, never mind the endless pile of plans, the drafting table, and AutoCAD open on my computer.

Jun. 02 2011 11:49 AM
Susan from Queens

I miss the retro days of the secretary actually. I was a secretary when I first moved to NYC in 1984, and my bosses were usually women. I am now a business owner, but I sometimes long for those days.

Jun. 02 2011 11:48 AM

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