Clerical Work and the Olmsted Firm

99 Warren St Brookline

Fairsted: Home of Frederick Law Olmsted/Clerical Work and the Olmsted Firm
National Park Service | Boston
Written By National Park Service | Boston

Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. Discover how one city could be the Cradle of Liberty, site of the first major battle of American Revolution, and home to many who espoused that freedom can be extended to all.

When Frederick Law Olmsted moved his landscape architecture firm to Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1883, it was still a small operation. Over the following years, his firm expanded as he brought in more partners and employees, including his sons John Charles and Frederick Jr. After Olmsted retired, his sons became senior partners and renamed the firm Olmsted Brothers.

The partners aimed to make their Brookline office more mechanized and efficient to handle growing business. For support, they hired a staff of skilled clerical workers who kept the firm organized. Most of these positions were filled by women.

The 1920s were a busy time for Olmsted Brothers. After reduced work during World War One, the firm rebounded and took on hundreds of commissions. A large number of jobs meant that the office buzzed with activity: letters and phone calls came in and out, plans were copied and shipped, and employees sometimes juggled over a hundred projects at a time. The clerical staff also grew to manage the increased workload and keep business running.

We can understand the clerical workers better in the larger context of women entering the workforce in the early twentieth century. During this time, clerical work was greatly expanding as offices grew and introduced new machinery that needed people to operate it. Women filled the demand for workers since many people believed that clerical tasks were well suited for women. By the 1920s around half of the nation's clerical workers were women, double the percentage from 1900.

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Cover photo courtesy of National Park Service.

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Fairsted: Home of Frederick Law Olmsted

Clerical Work and the Olmsted Firm

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