Workin’ 9 to 5 on Administrative Professionals Day

Administrative Professionals Day began as part of what was originally called “National Secretaries Week,” founded in 1952 by an organization now known as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, both to honor the work of secretaries and administrative professionals and attract people to the career.

When you think of a secretary in the 1950s, an image like this one, from the back of the Smith-Corona’s Complete Secretary’s Handbook (1951) probably comes to mind:

Image from Smith-Corona’s Complete Secretary’s Handbook (1951)

A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that sixty years later, “secretary” is still the most common job for women. In fact, in 2011, 96% of all secretaries and administrative assistants were women.

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture has many collections that document organizational efforts to improve job opportunities for women, whether that means advocating for access to jobs higher-paying male-dominated fields or fighting against sexual harassment in the workplace, including the records of the Southeast Women’s Employment Coalition, founded in 1979 in order to expand the limited employment opportunities for women in the rural South, and the papers of labor activist Theresa El-Amin.

Cover of Not Servants, Not Machines by Jean TeppermanOur collection also contains this gem: Not Servants, Not Machines: Office Workers Speak Out by Jean Tepperman (1976). In the acknowledgements, Tepperman explains how women affiliated with the Boston chapter of “9 to 5,” an organization of women office workers, supported the writing of this book which includes interviews with women across the country. Like the “9 to 5” organization, this book aims to share these women’s experiences of discrimination in the workplace due sexism, and provide information about how to organize and improve women’s working conditions, treatment, and most importantly, their pay.

The Rubenstein Library salutes Administrative Professionals, especially our own Nelda Webb, and honors their contributions, as well as those who have worked to improve conditions and compensation for all women in the workplace.

Post contributed by Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Bingham Center.