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Jennie Wehle: A lady typewriter

When Jennie Wehle took employment as a typewriter in 1888, her decision excited no small amount of interest. According to news reports, she was the daughter of a millionaire, and she had taken employment for the sake of independence. “I think one is much happier for being independent and having something to employ the mind,” she said, explaining her decision.

(The term “typewriter” indicated either the operator of the machine or the machine itself in the late 1800s and early 1900s.)

An article about Wehle, featured in various publications, chronicled her decision in some detail, though the author reserved quotations for the latter part of the piece.

“I am not working simply to gratify a whim,” she said, “nor am I doing it simply for the sake of the experience, for I intend to continue permanently at it. I consider I have two very good reasons. First, I love my work; and, secondly, I love to be independent. I believe every girl gifted with brains should employ them the way nature intended.”

She also addressed general attitudes about lady typewriters: “I think the public have an erroneous opinion about lady typewriters from what they read in the newspapers about them. There is a disposition to surround them with an air of romance. I have become acquainted with a great number. Many of those whom I know belong to excellent families, and have enjoyed wealth and refinement, but through reduced circumstances are obliged to depend upon their own exertions. They are none the less ladies for doing so.”

The piece, entitled “Mr. James’ Type Writer,” was featured in The Exponent, September 1, 1888. Other publications called the piece “A Lady Typewriter.”

Wehle is mentioned in this piece about women pursuing careers:

Fri, Oct 24, 1890 – 3 · The National Field (Salina, Kansas, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Indexed at Women and the typewriter at Type-Writer.org.

© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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