Proper habits for working girls

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, April 2, 2016

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I need to apologize to all the loyal Messenger readers out there. I have not been a good Business Girl.

A Business Girl, according to an article from the New York Telegram reprinted in the Jan. 5, 1917, edition of the Wise County Messenger, “know[s] the value of a silent tongue.”

Racey Burden

Racey Burden

A Business Girl (not a Business Woman, obviously, because women are married and don’t need jobs) knows that “the silent woman is one of the rarest treasures on earth.” And she wants to be a silent woman, for job advancement but mostly to eventually snag that working husband who she can dote on endlessly and silently for the rest of her life.

But while she is working for her living, the Business Girl must defer completely to the Business Men, for they are Men and thus they always know best. The boss, who will be male of course, needs to know that the Business Girl won’t speak too much in meetings with other Business Men. That would be embarrassing and emasculating.

Business Girls don’t have ideas of their own. They’re there to take notes and to make sure to keep the secrets of the Business Men – “no man wants to have a girl taking down his business correspondence and overbearing all the confidential interviews with other men.”

Everyone knows that a social girl will have “a really prattling tongue,” and while that may be fine for her pre-marriage, a Business Girl sees loose lips for what they are – “a menace to her own best interests and a menace to her firm’s secrets.” Most girls are salacious gossips, but the Business Girl would keep any shady, shifty dealings secret, because that’s what a good Business Girl does.

Business Girls are pushovers.

I have let down all the Business Men in my life, for I am not a good Business Girl.

I do speak in meetings, and I do have my own ideas. I have little interest in marriage at this point in my life, and even less interest in being a silent bystander in any setting, not just the workplace.

I am a menace to good society, honestly. I apologize to Business Men everywhere.

Actually, I realize that in writing this column, I have further shamed myself by expressing thoughts that should have been held inside with a tight smile.

I think I’ll go sit quietly in a corner of the office now and practice my best Business Girl silence. If I’m good enough at it, you’ll never hear from me again as I fade into oblivion.

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter. She’s very grateful she wasn’t a working woman in the early 20th century.

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