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His fogginess not to be presumed upon

From The Cosmopolitan Shorthander (Toronto), June 1887 –

© 2020 – 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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1886: Paradise modified

Despite efforts to organize, stenographers and typists faced a volatile labor market in the late 1800s. One stenographer commented, “Denver from 1879 to 1881 was the stenographer’s paradise. There were only a very few of us here, and we had things all our own way and made a great deal of money, but ere long numbers of them came pouring in from the East and then our paradise was modified.”

Still, wage gains were impressive. According to the report below, one female typist regularly earned $125 per month. That women earned less than men hurt the profession as a whole (and women in particular), but wages managed to edge higher. This was, in part, because stenographer/typists demanded higher pay in place of an eight-hour workday.

The gender divide, however, was wide. Asked who made better typists, a (male) stenographer replied, “Well, a woman of the requisite education and nervous temperament will make a faster type-writer than a man, because her fingers are more nimble, but men always make better stenographers. Stenography requires an inventive turn of mind, as a clever shorthand writer will always make systems of his own, to shorten the characters.”

His obviously biased reply exposed a frank concession: women could join the profession, but female typists would make less than male stenographers.

From The Phonographic World (New York), July 1886 –

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© 2020 – 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Gum vs. the Typewriter

From an advertisement for Beech-Nut in 1942.

From The Phonographic World (New York), February 1886 –

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© 2020 – 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Not worthwhile to use the third finger…

It is worth observing that touch typing was a later innovation, appearing years after the introduction of the typewriter in 1874. In the following article, the author champions the two-finger method, writing: “Unless the third finger of the hand has been previously trained to touch the keys of a piano, we believe it is not worth the while to attempt to use that finger in operating the typewriter.”

The Cosmopolitan Shorthander (Toronto), August 1887 –

© 2020 – 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Working for half the wages of a man

In the late 19th century, women typed their way into employment. Demand was intense, so capable female typists found quick employment, but not on equal terms. “It seems to be the general opinion that simply because you are a woman you must work for about half the wages of a man,” wrote one critic of the system in 1882. The author suggested that women revolt by refusing to work for less pay.

Some women followed this course, asserting their right for equal pay, but typing paid more than other positions, and many women accepted less in order to gain entry into the workforce. This hindered and advanced the cause: despite that pay was unequal, it was more, and it gave many women an opportunity for independence.

The following article describes how some women fought this bitter reality.

From Brown & Holland Shorthand News, May 1882 –

© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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