Clickity Clack

07.25.131:45 PM ET

Female and Employed? Thank the Typewriter

How the machine brought women into the workplace.

When the typewriter arrived on the scene, it was supposed to be a modern marvel that would revolutionize the workplace—but men hated it. So, naturally, they got women to handle the machines. Enter the career gal, who provided cheap labor and seldom advanced enough to really threaten men’s livelihoods—though they were still resented as often as not. It was the first time women really worked in offices (and, indeed, administrative work is still a female-dominated field). Most graduated from the pool when they got married, and those who slipped into spinsterhood became bosses of the younger girls. Male writers were fascinated by these typists at the turn of the century, “creating heroines,” writes BBC News Magazine, “who wore no-nonsense clothes, rode a bicycle, took up smoking and hung out with anarchists in the English countryside.” Thus did the glass-ceiling shattering begin.