Lady Stenographers in Wire Cages: 1915

This extraordinary proposal was printed as part of an article about do-gooding feminists.  It was the brain-child of Mrs Charlotte Smith of Boston.

And now comes Mrs. Charlotte Smith and undoes all this good work. Mrs. Smith is president of something or other that doesn’t matter much, and so she feels called upon to initiate some remedial legislation. Casting her eye over the field of male depravity, she perceives that the stenographer is in need of protection. No sooner does the stenographer enter the office, says Mrs. Smith, than her employer ogles her, draws out a box of candy, and approaches. A young girl, says Mrs. Smith, can not do anything but bear it as best she can, and so these “old sinners” get their wicked way.

The remedy, of course, is simple. All remedies are simple to the feminist. And so Mrs. Smith “would have a law passed that no man can have a female stenographer in his office without a wire cage surrounding her.” Personally we are of opinion that in some cases a barbed-wire entanglement would be needed, but then we are apt to be extremists in matters of purity and the higher life. Of course there are stenographers whose virtue has been sufficiently protected by nature, and perhaps these could be allowed to remain at large. It would be the duty of Federal commissioners to determine who should and who should not go in the cages.

There would, of course, be difficulties, but a short experience would solve them. For example, we do not exactly see how the stenographic beauty is to be forced into the cage. A series of struggles at the beginning of each day’s work, renewed at lunch time, would be most unseemly, and might lead to even greater evils than it is sought to avoid. Moreover, how are we to prevent the candy from being passed through the bars? And since the young woman must be liberated at nighttime — if we may mention anything so immodest as nighttime — how shall we prevent the “old sinners” from following up the advantages gained from the candy?

Mrs. Smith of Boston should amend her law. There seems nothing for it but to enclose the stenographer in a permanent and portable wire cage, and to render illegal the sale or possession of knives, wire-nippers, or any other appliance by which the intent of the law may be evaded.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 2 October 1915

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It was kind of Mrs Smith of Boston to think of protecting the poor working girl. Others were not so kind. In 1904 there was this movement against women in the profession:


Ohio Women Point to Divorce and Breach of Promise Suits.

Columbus, O., Dec. 24. An organization of women, called the Anti-Women Stenographers’ Society, started several years ago to create a sentiment against young girls being employed as stenographers in business offices, presents these alleged figures to influence parents against allowing their daughters to accept positions as stenographers.

“During the last ten years 6,263 divorce cases have been filed by wives in the courts of this country naming their husbands’ stenographers as co-respondents. In 5,951 of these cases sufficient proof has been produced to influence the court in granting the wives’ decrees.

“In the last ten years 96 employers in this country were made defendants in breach of promise suits by their fair stenographers, and it was shown by testimony in court that in 361 cases, the employer had first caused the disgrace of the plaintiffs under promise of marriage.”

These facts, the society asserts, are sufficient to create a strong sentiment against young girls becoming stenographers. The society also charges that the profession unfits young women for the duties of home and that few men regard young women stenographers as suitable for wives. Tampa [FL] Tribune 25 December 1904: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about the ghost of a lady typist here.




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