A careful study of local conditions as they affect office positions will enable girls and their guides to have a better conception of requirements and rewards in this field. A valuable study of conditions among office girls in Cleveland has recently been published which sheds considerable light on the ultimate industrial fate of the overyoung and poorly trained office worker. A more general study is found in the volume on Women in Office Service issued by the Women’s Educational Union of Boston.
The third, or service, group of workingwomen covers without doubt the widest range of all. Here we find the domestic helper (or servant, as she has usually been called), the telephone operator, the librarian, the teacher, the nurse, the physician, the lawyer, the social worker, the clergyman or minister. All degrees of training are represented, and many varieties of work, from the simplest to the most complex.
Strictly speaking, service has to do with personal attendance and help, but it is constantly overlapping other lines of work. The household assistant is not only a helper, but at times a producer; the telephone operator and the librarian are distributors as well as public helpers; the secretary is an office worker, although she is a personal assistant to her employer as well. For successful work in any of these lines, however, a girl must possess certain definite characteristics, to which her peculiar talent or tendency may give the determining direction as she chooses her work.
In service of any sort the girl is brought into constant relation with people. Hence she must be the sort of girl to whom people and not things are the chief interest of life. She should have an agreeable personality, that she may give pleasure with her service; she needs tact, that she may keep the atmosphere about her unruffled; she needs to find pleasure for herself in service, seeing always the end rather than merely the often wearisome details of work. Beyond these general qualities we must begin at once to make subdivisions, since the additional traits necessary to make a girl successful in one line of service differ often widely from those required in any other line. We must therefore take up some of the lines of work in more or less detail.
Domestic work. The untrained girl who naturally falls into the service group has a rather poor outlook for congenial and successful work as conditions exist. With ability which she perhaps does not possess, and with training which she cannot afford, she would naturally become a teacher, a nurse, a private secretary, a librarian, or a social worker. Without training, she finds little except domestic service open to her; and domestic service finds little favor with girls, or with students of vocational possibilities for girls.