Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office

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9780393338546: Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office

Feed your boss’s ego. Dress for success. And don’t let your heels trip you up on the corporate ladder.

Millions of women have held the position of secretary, alternately lauded as a breakthrough opportunity and excoriated as dead-end busy work. From the female pioneers who infiltrated Capitol Hill offices during the Civil War to today’s tech-savvy administrative assistants, secretaries have withstood criticism for abandoning their rightful sphere (the home), weathered the dubious advice of secretarial guide- books, taken hits from feminists and antifeminists alike, and demanded the right to resist making coffee―all while making their bosses look good.

In Swimming in the Steno Pool, author-secretary Lynn Peril profiles the various incarnations of the secretary, from pliable, sexy mate of the “office husband” to postfeminist executive-in-training, drawing inspiration from a wide range of “femorabilia” and secretarial guidebooks of yesteryear. Featuring an array of fabulous illus- trations promoting office equipment and office girls alike, Peril delivers a feisty, witty celebration of the women who’ve been running the show for decades. 42 black-and-white illustrations

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About the Author:

Lynn Peril is a secretary and the author of Pink Think, College Girls, and Swimming in the Steno Pool. She lives in Oakland, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

A secretary herself, Peril (Pink Think) presents an informative if sporadically lively history of the secretary and her woman's arts as well as a humorous guide for those currently catering to their bosses' whims. Chapters detail the various pitfalls secretaries face on the job—and the uphill battle women fought to get a foot in the door—interspersed with sidebars containing historical trivia, excerpts from old advice books such as 1954's Secrets of Charm, and anecdotes from her own life. Peril's potted history includes the first female secretaries, who in 1862 filled slots of male clerks fighting the Civil War, and the early 20th-century arrival of secretarial training schools, most notably the Katherine Gibbs School, which taught decorum and math along with typing and shorthand. Peril also elaborates on secretarial stereotypes (one pulp paperback cover, Very Private Secretary, shows a buxom woman in apparent ecstasy), and also men's reappearance in the "steno pool" in the late 1970s. It all becomes a bit repetitive. But Peril's smooth tongue-in-cheek survey accented by entertaining period photos and ads will especially appeal to fans of Mad Men. 42 illus. (Apr.)
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