Lady Clerks

January 24, 1866


A bill authorizing women to work as clerks fails to pass through Virginia legislature.


We are sorry to see that the bill authorizing the employment of ladies as copyists in the Land Office did not pass the House of Delegates. In the course of the debate upon this subject, one of the honorable members declared that he did not think clerking the sphere of women.It is difficult to see why not. The requirements are simply a good, legible hand, and industrious use of it. Ladies, in general, are more expert in penmanship than men. The rough, hard hands of the masculine gender are intended for heavier work than that of the desk- for ploughing, rail-splitting and fisticuffling. The proposition to employ ladies as clerks is no longer an experiment. The Federal and Confederate Governments both availed themselves of their services during the war, and we believe they are still engaged in some of the department in Washington. We know nothing of the operation of the system there, but we know that here they were among the most valuable clerks in the employment of the Government. They were in the Quarter-master-General's, Commissary-General's and other departments. They not only wrote legible and beautiful hands, but they showed themselves adapts at figures and calculations. They were, as a body, more industrious, and more regular in their attendance than the men, accomplished more work, and, marvelous to relate, talked less. We hope the Legislature will reconsider its action and give employment to some of the many meritorious ladies who are now in great need of assistance.
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Justin Barlow




“Lady Clerks,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 7, 2022,