Marcia, Private Secretary by Zillah MacDonald

This gem has a publication date of 1949. I found out about it from Amy’s post on this series “Career Romance for Young Moderns” and had to ILL several of the titles. My copy came all the way from the South Carolina State Library!

marcia.jpgAt 18 Marcia knows college is not for her. Not because she isn’t bright enough, oh no! But because she wants to do things. She has aspirations to be a private secretary and is encouraged by her “commercial teacher” to do so. This teacher is a bit of a mystery to me. I gather she taught typing and shorthand? And then helped girls find places and their way in the world? She definitely looks out for Marcia and helps her find a room in a “Residence” (apparently a hotel/boarding house in the city for young women with a communal kitchen and someone guarding a desk in the reception area.)

Of course Marcia finds the life of a career girl much more difficult than she’d expected-jobs are hard to come by, there’s lots she doesn’t know, and she’s running out of money. Eventually she finds a position at a college, where she must work under the very severe and unkind Miss Gill. Marcia is just too too perfect and suffers under Miss Gill with good grace, admitting that she learns a lot from the older woman.

I expected there to be a much greater romantic element to this story, but in fact there was more of a mystery in it. I suppose the romance is her friend from home, but it was so unromantic I wasn’t even sure if we were supposed to root for them to get together. The mystery was very bizarre, too, and very unexpected. Another funny thing ws the extensive detail about Marcia’s daily tasks-organizational systems she employs, tricks with carbon paper, etc. I suppose the series was meant to give young women a realistic portrayal of a particular career?

My husband just asked me if I liked the book or was just amused by the datedness of it. It’s hard to say. I have an affection for old books, in part because it’s so foreign and thus funny to me, but also I guess I really do like the sincerity of the characters and the simpleness of their situations.

Here are a few gems that stood out to me:

Marcia receives this advice from a friend’s father: “A good private secretary, Marcia, stands shoulder to shoulder with her employer through all his ups and downs. She saves him tiresome details and keeps away boring people. She has in her mind a complete picture of the business. Her head is a storehouse on which he can draw at a moment’s notice. She has a steel trap mind.” Marcia finds this little talk very exciting.

The dreadful error that costs Marcia her first job: “Ugh!” he gasped and turned the letter over….then sent a quick glance of consternation at the sheets on his desk that should be copies. They were absolutely blank….Mortification engulfed her!”

From mean Miss Gill: “I notice, Miss Lee, that you have had no opportunity to straighten out your desk. I am stayin govertime tonight. If you are willing to stay, you might do it now.”

Check out this tactful statement from her: Miss Gill lifted [the keys] up and exclaimed distatesfully, “never on any account, handle the keys, Miss Lee, when your hands are pasty. Handling them after you is definitely unpleasant.”

All in all, a fun find. I’ve already started Jinny Williams, Library Assistant and can’t wait to share about that!


One thought on “Marcia, Private Secretary by Zillah MacDonald

  1. Pingback: Jinny Williams, Library Assistant by Sara Temkin « The Last Book I Read

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