What Impact Did the Typewriter Have on Society?

At the peak of its popularity, the typewriter had a revolutionizing impact on communications, as well as on the social liberation of women. Since the typewriter so effectively opened up secretarial employment opportunities for women, the man credited with its initial mass-production was once hailed as a “savior of women.”

By 1881, typing courses for women were offered by various organizations, including the Young Women’s Christian Association. While there was little career advancement available to women in typewriting positions (indeed, the job was open to women precisely because it offered little career advancement to men), it was nevertheless an important first step toward female economic empowerment or independence.

The impact of the typewriter on communications in a range of sectors was largely to standardize their format. In addition to altering expectations of professionalism in business, the standardization of documents increased the efficiency of political administration, with the number of communications increasing dramatically with the widespread use of typewriters. Much of this is attributable to the fact that typed communications were far more legible than handwritten ones.

It was Christopher Latham Sholes’ mass-produced device, the “Sholes & Glidden Type Writer,” that instigated the major changes from 1874 onward. However, the earliest patent for a typewriter-like device was filed in England in 1714 by Henry Mill, and developed later by the Italian Pellegrino Turri.