The Washington Secretaries Oral History Project   

The Washington Secretaries History Project      
A Brief History
in Quotations
“'Well, you do me a favor and I will do a favor for you. No one will ever know it but you
and I, and I will put you in a position to get $75 per month.'”

-- Congressman to a young [woman] job applicant, 1876


"They [women] have not only done what they have been asked to do, and done it with ardor
and efficiency, but they have shown a power to organize for doing things on their own
initiative, which is quite a different thing and a very much more difficult thing.”

-- President Wilson expressing his support of voting rights for women, citing the performance
of women as clerical workers for the government during World War I, November 11, 1918


“This is Boom-Town-on-the Potomac for secretaries. For every 'Mr. Big' in government and
business there is a "Miss Little" who backs up the boss. From the hills of New England,
from Southern plantations, Midwest prairies and the slopes of California thousands of
'typewriter jockeys' have arrived on our wide avenues. Without them, the Government's
business would collapse and most bureaucrats would go home.”

-- Marjorie Binford Woods, The Washington Post, April 28, 1946


"Men like everyday things like navy blue or black with touches of white. They’ll look at
bright colors but they don’t like them in an office. . .It all goes back to the old theory that
while a man may admire a baroque piece of furniture in a gallery or home, he invariably
selects simple, straight-lined pieces for his office. And a secretary must be as impersonal as
the office equipment – attractive, yet unobtrusive."

-- Adria Beaver Lynham, Director, The Washington School for Secretaries, April 4, 1947


"There has never before been a colored girl in the White House . .We [she and her
husband] decided that when the barrier has been broken down once, it is difficult to build
it up again.”

-- Lois Lipman, the first African-American secretary in The White House (Eisenhower
Administration),  Aug. 7, 1953


“We just couldn’t afford to take 40 colored students and have 60 or 80 white students
leave.”

“Private schools in Washington are like that. We don’t integrate. We prefer not to.”

-- Names withheld; schools are still in operation today, 1961.

"Political girls dress in a conservative, well-tailored style, heavy on linen and knit dresses,
with quiet gold jewelry. They are against Women’s Liberation because the movement
rejects the notion of gaining power through association and using so-called feminine wiles
instead of direct action. Political girls compensate for the disadvantages they face because
of sex by using prerogatives that are open only to women. Peggy Harlow [who worked for
Vice President Agnew] says, 'The exposure I get to senators and congressmen by taking
them coffee or candy when they’re in the chair, or walking their dogs, is something a man
couldn’t do, because it wouldn’t be appropriate.'”

– “The Girls on the Bandwagon,” Sara Davidson
McCall’s Magazine, August 1970