People and Places gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census People and Places

The Typist

The Typist  
By 1901, women dominated the new occupation of shorthand typist - development of the technology coinciding with their availability for office work. Some argued that women were naturally more dextrous than men in using the typewriter. Perhaps more importantly, they were cheaper to employ.

In 1901, the Registrar General's Department decided to increase its staff of female typists and use them to replace boy copyists. Catherine Beechcroft was recommended by the manager of the Remington Company and appointed on a temporary basis.

Miss Remington's reverie - link to an enlarged version


  Letter to Registrar-General about Miss Beechcroft  - link to an enlarged version

Census entry for Catherine Beechcroft  -  link to an enlarged version


Female typists were first employed by a government department on an experimental basis in 1890. In 1894, the Treasury pronounced that 'women typists have proved themselves an efficient and economical form of labour', although 'copying with the aid of a machine…is not difficult', so their pay should be 'moderate'. At 16s per week, a typist's starting pay was, the Registrar General noted, 'not such as to tempt applicants'.

Female civil servants were expected to resign if they married: 'Continuous and effective service is the first condition of permanent employment under the State, and a woman, as wife and mother, cannot be expected to work for the State continuously and effectively, and her service must therefore cease on marriage.' This applied not only to the Civil Service, but also to local government, teaching and the banking sector - although not usually to manual workers - until the labour shortages of the Second World War made it impractical to enforce.

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