Working From Home: 1909 Style
Working from home is almost seen as a privileged luxury today. Office-based cubicle denizens negotiate for the privilege with their bosses and the best remote positions at 100% distributed workforce companies are never short of qualified applicants. But there was a time when people, especially women, did anything they could to earn money from home and not always by choice.
Women of all education levels often weren’t accepted in most workplaces and magazines devoted multiple columns in every issue to sharing ideas for earning a few extra dollars for hours of extra work at home.
A 1909 edition of Ladies Home Journal ended up in our house a few weeks ago, 108 years to the month after it was printed, and the whole family has been eagerly pouring over this printed time machine. The article, “How Stay-at-Home Girls Have Made Money,” shown in the image above caught my eye immediately. It wasn’t the only article about earning money from home, and as I read through it, I was struck at how everything has been flipped on its head.
In 1909, women still didn’t have the vote in the United States and the world was unaware of the coming horrors of modern warfare and man-power shortages that would give women a inspiring taste of office and factory work as western men joined and died with their comrades. Some women were desperate to work outside the home and reluctantly returned home at the close of hostilities. They enjoyed the “freedoms” of the office (scant few that they were) compared to the drudgery waiting at home.
108 years later, men and women alike have seen work change significantly in the home and office, in connectivity and lifestyle expectations. The home is no longer what many are escaping but is now seen as a place where we can reliably and calmly get real work done. I can’t help but think of the same people who read this article in 1909 being dropped into our world today but instead searching out online articles on “How to Get a Work from Home Job” from their dimly lit office cubicles.
As I look at all the new AR systems and software coming online I can’t wait to see how virtual the virtual office will become in the next 108 years.
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