Salute to Secretary’s Day


vintage ad IBM typewriter secretary at desk

Vintage ad 1953 IBM Electric Typewriter “Typing all day is easy and effortless. At 5 o’clock you’ll look fresh and free from fatigue”


Who can forget the halcyon days when Administrative Professional Day was called National Secretary’s Day ? When a working woman was a working girl.

Lovingly called “the girl” by her boss whether a secretary, receptionist or file clerk, she was happy to oblige when the boss said “my girl will call your girl.”

Starting in 1952 the office girls were recognized for their hard work and got a holiday filled with flowers and chocolates. Promotions, not so much.

Just like the girls on Mad Men, I’m sure Administrative assistants would have preferred recognition and growth opportunities over flower, candy or lunch.



Take a Letter

vintage illustration Business secretary typewriter

Vintage ad John Hancock Life Insurance 1953 A Tribute to the Secretary

A year after the establishment of National Secretary’s Week a love letter to the ladies of the secretarial pool from John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company ran as an ad.

Even a hard-working girl can’t get away from housekeeping as the headline suggests: “She Keeps House for a Nations Business.”


office dictation photo boss at desk secretary


“You make a phone call, and its her voice that answers,” begins the ad.

“You dictate a letter, and it’s she who writes it down.”

“You need a speech that somebody made 2 or 3 years ago..or was it four?…or was it a magazine article? You can’t recall but she can and has it on your desk in twenty minutes.”

secretary at adding machine 1950s

Vintage ad National Cash Register 1954

“Who is this girl who turns up wherever business is done, remembering what you forget, doing what you haven’t time to do making the nations office as bright and orderly as a well-kept kitchen?”

“The personnel cards say she’s Miss Jones, secretary; Mrs Brown receptionist, Miss Perry file clerk; Miss Hoyt accounting machine operator. They tell you she’s 21 or 43, that she’s worked here and there that she went to this or that school.”

“Maybe the cards should tell you more.”

“Perhaps they should mention that Miss Jones has an invalid mother, and never lets her problem show in the face you see from 9 to 5.”

Perhaps they should say that Mrs Brown is supporting a son in college that Miss Perry practices shorthand during her lunch hours, that Miss Hoyt, bringing some softening touch of life into the places where jobs are done?”

illustration boss and typist secretary

“Take a letter Miss Jones.” the copy continues.

“To whom it may concern:thanks for your help.”

“Thanks for spelling better than I do, and for knowing what I don’t.”

“Thanks for remembering when a collective noun takes a singular verb, and for wearing a flower on rainy mornings and for being cheerful when I’m not, and for knowing how to work hard and still be human.”

sexist office cartoon

Vintage cartoon Esquire Magazine 1951

“Thanks for being everywhere that a bright mind, a willing hand, and a pleasant way are needed.”

“Mail it to yourself Miss Jones. Sign it, “Very sincerely yours.”

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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  1. The “girl” with a longing for a vacuum cleaner? “Can’t wait ’till I’ll get home so I can do some vacuum cleaning”? Can’t figure out that ad. But the big keyboard must be a kind of book-keeping machine – the Excel spreadsheet of those days?


    • The image of the woman at the office machine is from a 1954 ad for National Cash Register Company, highlighting praise from the president of Lewyt Corporation ( manufacturer of the vacuum cleaner, among other things) He touts the usefulness of NCR machines and the wise investment he made in purchasing them. That said, I’m certain “the girl” in the image is indeed dreaming of owning a Lewyt Vacuum herself! In the pre Computer age, NCR machines were essential for business.


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