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Lynn Peril Headshot

Secretary: The Rise And Fall Of The Office Wife (PHOTOS)

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For over a century now, secretarial work has been extolled as a wonderful career opportunity for women--and excoriated as dead-end busy work. Both characterizations are true. Office work has supported or supplemented my writing career for almost 20 years, but I still have a hard time not adding the words--aloud or mentally--"just a" or "only a" in front of the word "secretary" when people ask me what I do. I doubt I'm the only one. I mean, can you blame us? Today's secretary is responsible for a greater array of complex tasks than her predecessors ever were, but the word itself is considered so demeaning that most offices shelved it long ago in favor of "administrative assistant." Indeed, "diminished image" and low pay were given as two reasons for a secretarial shortage that began in the late 1970s. Anyone who hasn't resided under a rock for the past century is well aware of that image--the husband-hunting, pencil-pushing, coffee-getting, dumb-bunny, sex-bomb secretary depicted in advertising, novels, movies, television shows, comic books and just about every other form of pop culture for a lot longer than you probably realize. Consider the history of that most pernicious of secretarial stereotypes: the office wife.

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