The Iron Whim

I ordered this book from Amazon today:“The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of the Typewriter” (Cornell) by Darren Wershler-Henry

And found this article about it:

Looks like there’ll be some fascinating stuff in there, which will inform my proposal no end. I’m especially interested in the stuff about sexuality and discourse, mentioned in TNY article:

“Wershler-Henry follows the fortunes of the typewriter into the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the role of women in the story. In the beginning, few people imagined that anyone would compose at the machine. The user of the typewriter would be an amanuensis—in other words, a secretary—taking dictation from another person. Accordingly, in the early days the word “typewriter” was used to mean not just the machine but the person plying it. That person, the Remington folks assumed, would be a woman. (The flowers printed on the casing of the early models were to make the mechanism seem friendly to the weaker sex.) Remington’s prediction was correct. It was often as typists that women poured into the professional workforce at the turn of the century. By 1910, according to the Census Bureau, eighty-one per cent of professional typists were female. Guardians of the social order warned that this development would have baleful consequences. It would unsex women; it would spell the end of the American family. They were right, in part. Together with other social changes, the availability of typing jobs no doubt did weaken the family’s hold on women. As for unsexing them, the effect was the opposite. Wershler-Henry documents the entry of the “typewriter girl” into the iconography of early-twentieth-century pornography. He also gives us illustrations, from the so-called Tijuana Bibles, dirty comic books produced in Mexico, starting in the nineteen-thirties, for the American market. In one panel, a three-piece-suited executive, staring at his secretary’s thigh, says, “Miss Higby, are you ready for—ahem!—er—dictation?” Such a situation did not lead swiftly to Miss Higby’s empowerment, but for a woman to have a job, any job, outside the home was part of the humble beginnings of twentieth-century feminism.”







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