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The job of the typist has always been dominated by women. The reason for this dates back to the 1880's when typewriters were beginning to appear in the workplace. This new source of employment was one that many men did not want to enter because the wages were low.
It was in America that the idea of employing women to type was first formed. In 1881 the Young Women’s Christian Association bought six typewriters and began a typing class for eight women. Within five years 60,000 were working throughout the United States.
As typing classes began to develop, some typewriting manufacturers' including Remington, began to set up their own schools. It was within these schools that the skill of shorthand began to be taught alongside the all-finger touch-typing technique. In some cases companies would train up women and then offer their skills when selling their machines to an office.
The evolution of women in the office has had impact on the development of women's rights in all areas of professional life. Before the advent of the typist most women were working in shops, factories or domestic service. Only if they had received a high level of education could women improve their prospects by pursuing nursing or teaching. With the development of the typist and typing-pools, women could take up a 'respectable’ job which did not demand such high levels of education.
The increasing number of women in the workplace cannot just be explained by the development of the typewriter. What the machine did do was establish a role that allowed further opportunities to grow. However, there was also a drawback to the rise of the typist. Many women began to be sterotyped as only able to carry out this level of work and had to struggle to improve their position.
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