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War Opens Up New Fields for Women’s Endeavor. Orie Latham Hatcher and the Bureau of Vocations, July 1917


Many Opportunities to Be Presented to Take Place of Men Engaged in War.


Secretarial School, to Be Conducted by Smithdeal Business College, Gives Opportunity for Special Preparation in Office Work.


Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sunday, July 1, 1917, p. 8


Among the many changes and upheavals brought about by the world-war upon which America has entered, few stand out with such startling clearness as the necessity for women entering occupations and professions for which they have had no training or preparation. Even in the work for which they are peculiarly fitted they have had so little opportunity for development that it is the exceptional girl who finds herself ready to-day to meet what is to be required of her in the years ahead. It is, therefore, with something of shock that we of Virginia, and, indeed, of the entire South, are beginning to realize how unthinkingly we have gone along the road that has led us to the high, hard wall of unpreparedness, against which we have now bumped with such dismaying sharpness.

In a vague, irresponsible sort of way we have long known our girls did not have the opportunities for vocational training that girls in other sections of the country had, but in the hope that they would somehow muddle through until the men they would doubtless marry would take from their father’s shoulders the burden of their support, we let it go and tried not to think too much about it. If necessity forced many girls into the world of work we made effort to believe that nursing and stenography, and teaching and reporting, and embroidering, and things of that sort, could meet the requirements of the situation until marriage ended it, or until those who pursued such occupations had accepted the colorless monotony of a life that offered little in the way of growth or self-expression and our guilty consciences we tried to hush.

For a time we kept them quiet, the consciences which shamed us with the effortless acceptance of our limitations in providing our educated young women with fresh stimulus, new points of view and intelligent enthusiasm for broader and bigger lines of work than those that had hitherto seemed all that custom in this part of the world permitted.  But though our pride was pained, we did little to overcome our deficiencies and handicaps, and not until Dr. Orie L. Hatcher came and took the matter in charge did we really arouse ourselves to action, or rather, indeed, respond to hers.

For nearly three years the Virginia Bureau of Vocations has been in existence in the city of Richmond, and during that time it has done admirable work along formative and forward-looking lines, and yet comparatively few people yet understand its purposes or the reason of its being. Much has been written of it, much as developed from its inspiration and directive guiding, but the city, as a whole, is as yet unaware of its possibilities, and gives not to it the sympathetic and practical co-operation, which it so splendidly deserves.

From the perspective gained by distance and from the familiarity with what was being done in other parts of the country, together with the stimulating contact obtained in great educational centers and institutions, Miss Hatcher realized with keen insight that the city of her birth was not equipped with an organization which should serve as a sort of clearing house, first for women who wanted to become trained workers in other professions and occupations that those which had been commonly entered hitherto, and by which they could earn a livelihood that was not blighting to ambition and annihilating to all hope of advancement; and, secondly, to those who needed the services of women who were so trained. There was no intention of making the Virginia Bureau of Vocations an employment agency. It is not an employment agency. It is, however, an organization whose constant duty is to study all available vocations for women and to acquire all needed information as to those which are most desirable for them to enter. What women are doing in other parts of the world is learned and recorded; correspondence entered into with those who have achieved success in their particular calling, the cataloging of institutions which offer vocational training of the higher sorts are carefully studied, and special publications read with a view to discovering what they offer along the lines sought; also where training for certain vocations can be obtained, and at what cost of time and money.

In addition to this, the bureau has been finding out the resources of the State in meeting the needs of vocational training for educated women, and, whenever possible, in such instances as the Art Club of Richmond, it most readily co-operates in all efforts to provide advanced instruction in the lines undertaken.

As an outgrowth of its directive suggestion and presentation of need the school of social economy, to be opened this fall, will fill an immediate demand, and from the establishment of this school much good will eventually come. The secretarial school to be conducted by the Smithdeal Business College is another product of the bureau’s realization of its need in the State, and the opportunities that it will open to the women who will take the instruction offered is hardly yet grasped by them.

These are but the beginnings of many possibilities that the Virginia Bureau of Vocations for Women has in mind, and when in addition to the pursuits and professions now open to women the latter can avail themselves of the chance of becoming trained workers in such other occupations as the designing of furniture, of clothing, of wall paper and carpets; of weaving and book binding, of metal work and wood carving, of advertising and illustrating, of interior decorating and photography, of the keeping of book shops and florists shops and children’s shops; of gardening and dairying and agricultural work; of library work and institutional supervision—when these things come to pass—some of the dreams of the bureau shall have indeed come true.

Richmond is fortunate to have at the head of this bureau a woman whose reputation is national in scholastic work and intellectual standing, and whose brilliant achievements in the literary world giver her high rank among American writers. Freely and without stint she gives of her trained mind, her sympathetic understanding and her constructive ability to the work she hopes to accomplish for the women of her State, and for the entire South, in helping them realize first the possibilities which are theirs, and later to afford them opportunities for the development of their many powers as yet untrained and unutilized. Miss Hatcher’s work demands the fullest appreciation and recognition, and all the more generously should it be given when it is realized that her services are bestowed without other remuneration than the reward of knowing that to her native State and city she is sharing of the rich abundance of her ability to the furtherance of larger and wider opportunities to the educated young women of her day for new lines of effort in new fields of endeavor. Surely the work undertaken will be upheld by the public when the public understands.

For further reading: 

Crouch, L. (2020). Orie Latham Hatcher, Ph.D. (December 10, 1868 – April 1, 1946): educator, pioneer of vocational guidance, founder, Bureau of Vocations for Women, organizer, Richmond School of Social Economy. Social Welfare History Project

(1904 May 15). Miss Hatcher’s Lecture at Woman’s Club. Richmond Times-Dispatch. p. 6.

(1915, September 5). Bureau of Vocations begins work for season. Richmond Times-Dispatch, p. 4.

Campbell, A. W. (2020). Richmond School of Social Economy – Beginnings. October 1916 – July 1917, Social Welfare History Project.


Bosher, K. L. (1917, July 1). Richmond Times-Dispatch. p. 8.


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