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Party Time: 1919

Party Time: 1919

Washington, D.C., 1919. "Woman suffrage. National Woman's Party, interior." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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The latest equipment

They seem to have the makings of an Addressograph-style rotary duplicator on the table.

Re: Miss Combover

Could that be Ted Koppel's mom?

Number, please

No way you'd get the D.C. telephone directory to hang on the wall like that nowadays. Then again, they probably would be using or the like.

UL would not approve

Do you think the bulb in that overhead fixture exceeds the manufacturer's recommended maximum wattage?

The black box between the windows is indeed part of the telephone equipment. It is the ringer, since the candlestick phones didn't have a place for bells.

They had more exercise

To dwell on Ante-Aeron's question, they had more exercise, so suboptimal seating didn't hurt them as much. No driving from the garage to the mailbox. But rather walk, walk, walk, from home to the bus station, bus station to office, and so on. The shoes and stockings showed it (see lower right, the part that is in contact with the shoes looks like very much doubled up against wear). Shoeshines at every corner, too.

Office hats

Here we probably have an early example of the demarcation between secretaries and professional women -- the hat.

For decades, if a woman worked in any professional capacity other than clerical, she wore a hat and wore it all day long. It was a signal to anyone (male) that she was not a "go-fer," which could lead to embarrassment all round should one ask her to take dictation. It also gave the impression that she was busy and "on the go", an important thing for women striving for a place in the business world.

Miss Combover

I do believe that the woman on the left has been visited by the spirit of Donald Trump's hairstylist.

Ladies Who Lunch

Look to the left and you'll see that they each had their own pizza oven.

Ewell House, on Lafayette Square

That's the west end of Lafayette Square visible through the windows. In 1919, the Party moved its headquarters to 100-year-old Ewell House (now demolished, but then at 14 Jackson Place). The Square played an important part in the Party's history, for it was the site of many efforts to picket President Wilson into pressuring Congress to take up what would become the Nineteenth Amendment. A less-receptive attitude toward dissent during the war had caused the picketers to be jailed, leading to hunger strikes, followed by increased sympathy for their cause.

Modern Office Pride

Studying this setting I sense the women in the photo were feeling quite proud of their modern office fixtures. Featured prominently in the photo are telephones and typewriters, the tools of the trade for any modern professional office of the time. Let's not forget that the profession of 'secretary' at this time was still filled mostly by men.

There are a pair of pieces which look like circular index cards and another unknown appliance in the center background. I'm guessing the wall-box is associated with the telephone network. Any Shorpy experts to help with their identifying these fixtures?

Platens and carriage returns

Those typewriters are magnificent. What's that ball glimpsed in the base?

[The "ball" is the end-of-line bell. Ding! - Dave]

I'm less entranced with the hairstyle of the woman on the far left. I've seen hair like that in silent film, and never been able to figure out what the women were thinking.


"Alright, Martha will bring the sandwiches, Mary will bring the salad, Agnes will bring the beer, and Alice, well, Alice will bring the Smith Island Cake."


There would be a revolt in my office if folks had to sit in those straight-back wooden chairs. How did folks back then ever accomplish anything without 7 way adjustable chairs with variable lumbar support?

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