Secretaries: Part of the Office Equipment

I have in my possession a book called “The Efficient Secretary” copyright 1916.  Much of the advice is still relevant today — be organized, have the proper supplies on hand, familiarize yourself with the rules of spelling an punctuation, etc.

However, in a book of advice that has outlasted the era for which it was intended, there is always some funny bit of writing that jars with our modern views.  In light of that, I bring you the section called “Dressing for Business”:

“It is but natural and right for a business man to want a good-looking, healthy secretary.  Not strictly beautiful, for those endowed with physical beauty who do not look neat and well-dressed are not as pleasing to the eye as are some who have no actual good looks, yet who present a favorable appearance by always dressing well.

You know that you would want the best-looking desk and the newest machine you could get, and to the business man his secretary is merely a part of the office equpiment.”

When I first read this, I wondered if it would be considered offensive to women of the time.  But then I looked at the author’s name, Ellen Lane Spencer, and realized it was written by a woman.

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