Today if we need to send an important document, we turn on our computers, we open Word and we start typing down all the information we need to share with the world. It is natural; it is part of our life. We are so used to it that we don’t even wonder how this kind of activity was carried out before computers. Well, to be fair we know it. In the past people used to write. A lot. Which is why one invention made a huge difference in people’s lives, before the arrival of computers: typewriters.
Typewriters were one of the major inventions of the 19th century, changing people’s lives completely in and outside the work environment. Indeed not only did typewriters make communications more formalised by partially replacing handwriting, but they also had the effect of shaping the society we live in.
Indeed, after the invention of typewriters, they became essential for administration work in offices. But who were the people that usually typewrote? Women. As a matter of fact, these machines worked as revolutionary devices since they paved the way to monetary independence for women.
For instance, in the “Manual of the Typewriter” written by John Harrison in 1888, this particular device was said to perfectly match women’s thin fingers, not requiring any additional skills than the ones utilized in playing the piano. Although nowadays this kind of statement might sound sexist; it is also true that seeing women using typewriters as a socially acceptable practice was a clear sign that society was changing, as was the role of women in it. Typewriters – along with other inventions like bicycles – were important means for that to happen, guaranteeing freedom of movement and of gaining, therefore, independence.
Therefore, typewriters twice represented a revolution in history: first for their role in technological advancement, and then for their pioneering role in gender equality achievements, and as such they mean so much more than mere writing devices. In conclusion, Speak Up London friends, be aware of how simple, sometimes obsolete objects, have had the power to shape the world and the lives of millions of people who have lived in it.
Maria Chiara Strano