Song of the Shirt Waist

Stenographer's Room - 1897 (Image from


How should a stenographer dress? —
Second to none.
With fingers nimble and strong,
With eyes that are  sparkling and keen,
A young woman sits in a womanly rig
With her pencil, her pad and machine.

Scratch, scratch, scratch,
With speed; not fussy with haste;
No poverty plaint, nor even a patch
Or smirch on her neat shirt waist.

Write, write, write,
From the business hour of nine;
And write, write, write,
Till time to lunch or to dine.

Then it’s oh, a jolly laugh!
With a bone of a turk to pick,
Where sister workers meet and chaff
In the respite hour from click.

Click, click, click,
Merrily, line upon line;
Click, click, click,
And the shirt waist wavelets shine.

Quick-witted to catch the thought,
To correct each grammatical lapse,
Not sentimentally taught
By Balzac; but better, perhaps.

Click, click, click,
As eager at work as at play.
Click, Click, Click,
The sheet rolls up and away.

E’s and S’s and Y’s,
Y’s and S’s and E’s;
Picking them up with her twinkling eyes,
And rattling them off the keys.

Write, write, write,
All womanly work elevates;
Write, write, write,
Esteem on faithfulness waits.

Oh, women with brothers dear,
Oh, women with husbands and sons
Heed not their sneers
At your sisters and peers,
Nor the talk of the morbid ones.

Right! right! right!
A just independence to gain,
And right! right! right!
Be it yours to help her attain.

–New York Sun.

Fort Wayne News (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Apr 18, 1896

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