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I am currently working on an historical research project that studies early twentieth century career advice texts for women as a way to understand 1) the way that texts were being used to articulate a new femininity suited to the white-collar workplace, and 2) the way that identity was shaping and mediating the literate work women were doing in that workplace. In undertaking this historical project, I have found that a CHAT-based approach offers particularly rich and productive framework for tracing the discursive networks, social/institutional affiliations, and cumulative rhetorical impact of these texts.
Abstract: In this piece I explore the socialization of women clerical workers in the early twentieth century as a kind of distributed work, mediated by texts and by the cultural/material channels through which those texts circulated. I do this by discussing a sampling of early twentieth century career advice texts, written to describe and guide women seeking clerical work after the turn of the century. Drawn from magazine articles, educational films, and handbooks, these constitute a rich if scattered archive, and represent an important means of negotiating gender identity amidst the swift and sweeping (technology-enabled) cultural changes of the early twentieth century.
Janine Solberg is a PhD candidate in the Center for Writing Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her scholarly interests include new media, gender, professional writing, and writing technologies. She is currently completing her dissertation, Pretty typewriters: Gender, technology, and literacy in career advice literature for women, 1900-1945.