Administrative Professionals Day has a history going back to 1942. That history shows how the work of administrative professionals has changed — and how our attitudes have changed, too.
This important day started out as “Take Your Secretary to Lunch Day.” It was extended to a full week so it would be easier to get reservations for all those lunches.
After owning a week in June and then in April, Administrative Professionals day settled into Wednesday of the last week in April.
The International Association of Administrative Professionals established the holiday as it now exists in 1952, when U.S. Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer proclaimed the day a national holiday. At that time, the organization was called the National Secretaries Association. In 1998, the day got its current name.
How did the holiday begin?
A century ago, secretaries were clerks — an entry-level position in an office where a new person could get his feet wet and learn to understand the work of a company. Then a few things happened. First, typewriters came into offices, and workers needed to be able to use this machine. Dictaphones, telephones, and other office machinery soon followed. Then two World Wars caused an upheaval which made it hard to find clerical workers, just as the United States shifted from an agricultural economy to a business-focused one.
Administrative professionals became more important. They were no longer just learning about the company; their skills were needed on an ongoing basis, and they needed more specialized skills. American companies needed secretaries with more skills, and they needed a lot of these workers. Three people were key in boosting Secretaries Day to encourage women to choose this profession. The three were marketer Harry F. Klemfuss who handled Dictaphone for his ad agency, the president of the Dictaphone Corporation, and Mary Barrett of the National Secretaries Association (which later became the International Association of Administrative Professionals).
RCA created a short film, “The Secretary’s Day,” to demonstrate the importance of secretaries. Advertisements showed a career path from stenographer to executive secretary. Professionalism and training were emphasized. These efforts helped to solve the labor shortage in administration.
Progress in the field
Administrative professionals have come a long way since 1942. The person doing administrative tasks at your company now is not a clerk or a secretary. He or she may e a Project Manager, the owner of the business, or an IT specialist.
Whoever those individuals are, we’re sure you value them. So do we! Especially during the pandemic, it has made a big difference to have people keeping our virtual workspaces organized. When they run a tight ship, we get to sail.