At first glance Memo: How to be a Super Secretary may look like some jokey merchandizing for a Betty Grable movie. Closer inspection reveals this slim pamphlet to be a genuine guide compiled by “renowned typist and secretary” Olga Elkouri as to what bosses look for in their secretaries.
Sometime in the mid-1940s, Miss Elkouri traveled across America asking various high powered executives what qualities they desired most in their secretaries. This was more than just typing, dictation and, you know, being good at their job. These bosses wanted wanted to hire secretaries who dressed smartly, who had “pleasant dispositions.” Women who can “stay cheerful” even when their boss is “grouchy, work piles up, and everything goes wrong.” Women who “look beautiful over the telephone” who “listen with undivided attention” and keep their “boss’s desk and office neat…his calendar up-to-date, his desk supplied with sharp pencils, erasers and blotters and his pen filled.”
These secretaries were silent about their own troubles—always “fair and sunny” and ready to protect their chief “no matter how [they] feel.”
The more important an executive, the more gracious, considerate, and democratic he is. The same ought to be true of his secretary. Your job is so big you cannot afford to be haughty. Be indispensable…but don’t let on you think that you are!
You hide your light.
If you originate a good idea, you give credit to your boss because you advance with him. You give credit to others when it’s due…sometimes when it’s not, just to keep them happy!
You are loyal
You put the interests of your boss first…even above your own. You speak of him always, to everyone, in terms of respect…
You carry the torch…give him encouragement when he is feeling low…put up with his bad humor when he has to let off steam…make him feel he’s a pretty wonderful person.
Super secretaries must also avoid their boss’s pet peeves like chewing gum, wearing bobby socks, arguing, being too noisy, emotional or moody, and worst of all not being lady-like enough.
Published by the Remington Rand Corporation in 1945, there are now only two “known” copies of this pamphlet—one held by Denver Library, the other by Hagley Digital Archives. Who knows this may yet make a comeback as the kind of office advice required to work for our alt-right overlords?
More sexist tips on how to be a pleasant and pleasing to the eye office drudge, after the jump…