A look at the old days for Secretaries Week

April 25, 1994|By Kara Kenna | Kara Kenna,Contributing Writer

Baltimoreans can celebrate Professional Secretaries' Week, which starts today, by taking a look at a secretary's life before the technology fast lane came to town.

The City Life Museums' live performance, "Life in the Office: Baltimore Secretaries in the 1940s," recounts what office work was like for these women and how it affected their lives.

The impact of World War II on both personal and professional life during that time is evident in the performance. The play, which opened over the weekend, will also be shown Saturday as well as four Saturdays in June. (Secretary's Day is Wednesday.)

"The play is a light look at secretaries, allowing us to present their behavior and attitudes," says Dale Jones, director of interpretation at the museum. "It's a real effective way to provide more information about the era to the public."

Based on a dozen oral histories from secretaries who worked in )) Baltimore 50 or so years ago, the play conveys these experiences in a one-woman performance by local actress Natalie Pilcher.

"The character doesn't represent one particular secretary," says Josephine Tucci, museum educational intern. "She's a compilation of interviews."

According to Ms. Tucci, secretaries who worked in the '40s were fully aware of their identity.

"They knew who they were and they were proud of it," she says. "They [also] felt good about themselves."

"A secretary's job was considered vital to the war effort," says Scott Fuqua, museum researcher and author of the play. "There was a pride inthe work that bordered on fanatic.

"However, this time period created its share of bad secretaries too, maybe more of them than ever before."

Ms. Pilcher's character depicts one of these bad secretaries. "It is her job, however, to point out the way a good secretary works," says Mr. Fuqua.

This is accomplished through the character's comments to a new girl in the typing pool who is represented by the audience.

In an endless stream of chatter, the character tells the girl all about her life experiences and describes other members of the typing pool. From her dialogue, "it's obvious that she's not nearly the secretary that everyone else around her is," says Mr. Fuqua.

The audience soon realizes that the character is more interested in talking than typing.

"Her conversation sometimes wraps around itself, she talks so much," says Mr. Fuqua.

The play also "gives an idea for what the proper protocol was" in the work force during that time period, according to Ms. Tucci.

A slide show will precede the play, which will conclude with a question and answer session.


In addition to "Life in the Office," there are other events going on to help celebrate Professional Secretaries' Day and Professional Secretaries' Week. Among the offerings:

* Advance Business Systems will sponsor the 1994 Office Olympics on Wednesday, April 27, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Harborplace Amphitheater.

Workers are invited to challenge an obstacle course complete with office equipment. Prizes include a weekend getaway for two at the Woods Resort, a $250 Nordstrom shopping spree and dinner for two at the Latham Hotel's Citronelle Restaurant.

"The event is a zany way to celebrate the unsung heroes of the office," says Mary-Margaret Stepanian, an ABS spokeswoman.

* The Delaware, Maryland and District of Columbia divisions of Professional Secretaries International will celebrate the week at a reception for PSI's international president, Amelia Barclay. The event will take place Tuesday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Washington. Tickets cost $18.

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