Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines from Home to Office

at Amazon for a song

It\’s like someone was reading my retrotech mind. Washing machines and dictaphones and typewriters, oh my! Never mind that this little ditty was published about seventeen years ago by The Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, I never saw it so it\’s new to me.

Mechanical Brides covers all the gadgetry of cleaning, cooking,  and rote office work. What I found most interesting is the chapter on office machines (of course) and the feminization of this technology. Turning a male clerk into a female secretary involved separating the act of writing into two distinct jobs:  composition and typing. While male clerks had done both, female typists were relegated to writing as assembly line production. Interesting now is that we\’ve come full-techno-circle, because everyone with a laptop both composes and produces \”typed\” text.

Business invented a middle-woman and then obsoleted her. Not that it was a bad thing, really, but that\’s a rant for another post.

This book is as much about feminine identity as it is about the machines that defined it. Full of stunning/appalling advertising copy and art, it\’s a steal if you can find one either on Amazon or Ebay. In fact, I\’d like to have a copy just to cut up and frame.

This One Looks Good

Fresh Ribbon

Just found an interview with Dennis Baron, author of A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution. Yes, the interview was in Inside Higher Ed, and yes, it has an academic edge. But just look at this portion of the interview:

I’ve always loved writing and its technologies. My earliest memories of writing include typing on an old Remington portable on the floor of the living room when I was 5 or 6. I can still see the ink-clogged e’s and o’s. I also remember my first fountain pen, a marbled-maroon Esterbrook that I got for my 8th birthday. I remember the smell of the ink when I filled the pen (no cartridge refills back then), tangy, metallic, kind of like blood. And my first ball point, a Paper Mate in two-tone green, the same colors as my parents’ 1955 Chevy (I later inherited that car, and while I always hated the colors on the car, on the pen they were magical).

You can read the rest of Serena Golden’s interview with the author here.

Clearly, we need a book club. I hope a few more of you snag a copy of this soon, because this looks like it warrants discussion.