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“George is ejected because Fanny is cheaper”

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The expanded role of women in the workforce marked a moment of crisis for some professionals who felt that “women’s work [was] gradually being substituted for men’s.” They argued that women were desirable only because they were “content” to work for less pay. But one author, writing in the Phonetic Journal in 1899, countered, “We doubt whether cheapness was, — at all events, originally, — the cause of the appearance of women’s work in the typewriting world. Women took up typewriting in the first instance mainly because men refused to have anything to do with the machine, and somebody was required to work it.”

Still, the impulse to place women in a category persisted: “Our own impression is that women are usually selected in those cases in which there is little call for anything more than shorthand and typewriting, or anything more, at all events, than clerical work of some kind, men being chosen generally when there is a question of the operator doing something more,—for instance, seeing customers, taking messages, collecting money, and the like.”

The Phonetic Journal, September 16, 1899 –

© 2021, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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