In the 1920s, mechanization and rationalization became terms that did not relate to manufacturing only. They also characterized change in office work.
Between 1907 and 1925, the number of office workers had almost doubled in Germany, and the number of women had even increased fivefold. Departmentalization had occurred before World War I, and this process continued in the expanding administrations of large companies with the use of office machines. Such departments were, for example, accounting, telephone switchboard and, above all, central typing pools.
It was primarily women who undertook these new jobs in cities. They mostly came from a middle-class background, but an increasing number of working-class women managed to obtain the more respected status of white-collar workers.
The monotonous, strenuous and, last but not least, noisy work in typing pools was often detrimental to the health of those working there, resulting, for example, in nervousness, dizziness, fatigue, inflamed tendons and impaired hearing. Complaints about the tremendous pressure of work can often be found in contemporary reports.
This is why most women did not regard the work as permanent but as an interim occupation - characterized by relative independence - before marrying. The earnings of young women office workers in the lower job categories were generally insufficient to set up a household of their own.
Chances of promotion were generally rare, but it was possible to move on from a typist's job to become secretary to a head of department or even to a director. And so the story of the private secretary who, after all the ups and downs of a fateful relationship, finally marries her boss is the dramaturgical climax of numerous films and books focusing on the new independent, self-assured woman.
Advertising also discovered the "new woman" in the office, as is shown not only by the commercial art of the time but also by such unimportant things as the Underwood typewriter ribbon container with a cosmetic mirror in the lid.