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

Lynn Peril, Norton, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-33854-6
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.)
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
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Open Ebook - 291 pages - 978-0-393-34146-1
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