The Story of Some Women Who Have Climbed Well Up the Ladder of Success in This Exacting Profession

GERTRUDE E. S. PRINGLE September 1 1922


The Story of Some Women Who Have Climbed Well Up the Ladder of Success in This Exacting Profession

GERTRUDE E. S. PRINGLE September 1 1922


The Story of Some Women Who Have Climbed Well Up the Ladder of Success in This Exacting Profession



BEFORE the movies came to kill time cheaply, and motor cars to save it expensively, an absorbed looking girl used to haunt the ladies’ reading room of a public library, where the magazines provided for our then voteless sex were purely domestic and sartorial. In those dear old days of the nineties a daughter whose father gave her $25 a month to dress on was regarded as a plutocrat by her friends, since a firstclass tailor would turn out a thoroughly satisfactory suit for $25 or $30, all found, and an excellent dressmaker make a ravishing frock for $10 or $12. But alas, of what benefit were low prices when money was scarce and there was no way for a girl without a special training to make any! And supposing a girl wrote frightfully interesting letters—all her friends told her so,—and they also said she had wonderful style, dressing as if she had oodles of money when too well she knew her purse to be lean but her brain to work overtime, wouldn’t a rueful maid wrinkle her brow, clench her dainty hands and determine there must be something she could do to make money? And she would do it too. Hence this particular maiden’s keen interest in the English magazines. She read them, pondered over them, studied them. Then armed with a plan and the courage of high adventure she called at a newspaper office. Perhaps she called at several before she succeeded. But the point is that one newspaper approved of her plan. Soon after there appeared in a city paper a weekly page signed Aurelia that showed an attractive diversity of appearance. One would become interested in a delightful little article on perhaps goldfish, and so alluringly would the subject be presented that one felt that life without goldfish would be a dreary waste and quite insupportable. Just as this conclusion was arrived at by the reader, she would find at the end of the paragraph the/ name of a dealer who supplied goldfish to a yearning public. Or perhaps the tale would concern some delightfully restful process by which tired nerves were

soothed, complexions made to bloom and hair to become thick and glossy, the climax revealing that it was Madame Jeune Doree who did the trick. Lived there a woman who could resist the subtle influence of such suggestive writing? And no matter what subject was treated, whether washing machines or canaries, Oriental rugs or purses, Aurelia’s gifted pen made every feminine reader anxious to acquire the articles described so interestingly. It was a tribute to her ability that although everyone knew the page to be an advertising one,—sugar-coated propaganda,—none the less was it eagerly read,

Aurelia’s column was probably the first of its kind in Canada—she created her own opportunity at a time when women were hardly known in the advertising field, although in England the same feature had had a place in newspapers and magazines for years. Since then this special kind of advertising has cropped up in other Canadian cities at intervals under such names as “My Lady Peggy Goes to Town”, “From a Woman’s Point of View”, “Pollyanna in the Shops”, or just frankly “Shopping Service”. Those who conduct such columns make their own contracts with vendors, in these being included the buying of the space and the writing of the advertisement, which under the terms of the agreement may appear at regular stated intervals for months or only once or twice. The copy-writer of course always keeps in close touch with her chief, the advertising manager of her publication.

While this kind of work is more or less ephemeral, lasting from a few weeks to a few years, according to its appeal, it affords good training and usually leads to more stable positions. The very nature of it causes the copy-writer to become well-known provided her writing is of outstanding quality, and in that case she is certain to be offered other posts. Aurelia, for instance, graduated from her page to a very fine advertising position in a large company.

While the big cities present the best

opportunities for this type of advertising, at some seasons of the year there is ample scope for such additional publicity in the smaller places. One girl who lives in a town of 60,000 inhabitants, visited leading merchants some weeks before Christmas and prevailed on them to allow her to write up certain of their goods in a series of chatty paragraphs, and this work, which was her first experience in writing, netted her $25 a week. Another girl undertook to describe articles of special interest to women that were on exhibition at the annual fair, and she did this so well that it ended in her being offered a permanent post to write advertisements for a local store. Then, too, the commercial side of advertising employs many women who sell space in special publications and thus earn good commissions.

Opportunities and Remuneration

SOME of the best paid women in business are to be found in the realm of advertising. That this work is not more often considered by girls in the list of likely occupations is because as yet openings are limited. Men to a large extent hold the field. The great majority of the agencies do not employ women copywriters at present, but this state of affairs will change, as it has in the United States, not by men being supplanted by girls but by an increased volume of advertising that will create opportunities for women to write of the things pertaining to their own sex. At its present stage of development, being a new phase of women’s activity, advertising has acted as a magnet to attract those possessed of distinctive qualifications rather than made a widespread appeal. Generally speaking, those women who occupy highly paid advertising posts stumbled into them by chance, being drawn into this specialized sphere from various occupations. Stenography has often been the path that led to the copy-writer’s desk; newspaper work too has been a channel that supplied firms with capable advertising writers. One

young woman, a university graduate, commenced her earning career as a teacher of languages; now she prefers to work from 8.30 to 5.30 in a large department store in charge of its advertising.

The writing and editing of mail order catalogues for large merchandising houses is a lucrative and varied branch of the work. In the depths of winter the woman copy-writer will be almost buried in light fluffy summer clothes, each of which she must describe. In the heat of Julyshe will be engrossed in the study of furs and heavy coats for the winter catalogue.

The advertising field is a wide one, including many kinds of work and employing every grade of writer from the lower rungs of the ladder to the top. The writing of copy for every kind of medium —newspapers, magazines, booklets, folders—the carrying out of advertising campaigns that embrace anything from a philanthropic or patriotic appeal to political propaganda and the exploitation of a utility, involve the work of many specialists. The highest artists such as Sir John Millais, who painted “Bubbles,” and the most talented writers, have not disdained to enlist their gifts in the cause of advertising, and by their efforts certain articles

lave become nationally known. While lie advertising bill for well-known produits goes into millions of dollars yearly, he ultimate consumer does not pay it but lenefits, since by a large increase in out»ut,—the result of the publicity given,— he cost of a commodity can be considertbly lowered.

Qualifications Needed In An Advertising Writer

HILE advertising like every other occupation includes some tasks hat are comparatively easy and simple, o secure a well-paid position a girl must tave certain essential qualifications, the irst of which is a good education, and nly the possession of marked originality an make up for the lack of this. There is iO occupation in which a knowledge of ’ood literature will help more. What loger Ascham wrote of the scholarly ttainments of his pupil, Queen Elizabeth, Uggests an ideal towards which those esirous of becoming copy-writers might fell aim. The Princess Elizabeth was ixteen years of age when Ascham penned he following regarding her:—

“In anything she reads she at once otices any obscure or wrong word.... die likes a style that grows out of the ubject-matter — free from barbarisms ecause it is suitable, and beautiful beause it is clear. She very much admires letaphors when they are not too strained, nd the use of antithesis when it is warmted and may be employed with good [feet. Her attention is so practised in the iscrimination of all these things, and her ldgment so sound, that in all Latin, [reek and English prose or verse there is othing loose on the one hand or concise on he other that she does not at once notice and condemn it strongly or praise it arnestly as the case may be.”

The girl who has browsed from childood in a well-selected library will have ;o cutciously moulded her tastes to aprímate good style in writing, and to exress herself in pure, flowing English, uch reading gives the general culture nd elevation of taste that a university uns to bestow. But it requires more than

halls of learning or shelves of books to turn out a well-read girl. There must be the mind that finds pleasure in reading and reflection. How many school girls in the ’teen age to-day spend their holiday in poring over such books as the essays of Bacon, Addison, Swift, Hazlitt, Macaulay, Hamerton, Stevenson, Emerson, and works by Adam Smith, Darwin, Gibbon, Carlyle, John Stuart Mill and Ruskin? By seeking to inculcate in their children the love of good books, parents can help them to get the best out of life.

Originality is a large factor in a copywriter’s success, and humor is as radium among the metals, precious, rare and highly prized. But even without either of these uncommon endowments, if a girl possesses imagination, sympathy and taste, and can describe things in a vivid way, infusing in her writing a crisp and arresting quality, she will go far in her work. She must however be accurate, for truth is the backbone of modern advertising. • , i

As an example of humor might be mentioned a series of amusing paragraphs called “The Adventures of a Powder Puff”, in which a girl who is the head of the Woman’s Department in an Advertising Agency gave publicity to the toilet preparations of a well-known firm. Another writer in a department store showed originality in her sketches concerning one of the store cats, whose adventures, real and fictitious, attracted so much attention that the children began to come with their parents to see the cat.

Persuasiveness is another quality that is valuable in a copy-writer, and this is achieved by graciousness and idealism combined with a knowledge of human nature. Indeed the understanding of human nature adds greatly to a copywriter’s appeal. A woman who prides herself on being exclusive and never mingling with those outside of her own infinitesimally limited circle, will lack that wider, universal touch that shows in the writing of those of broad sympathies and a keen interest in their fellow-men.

Starting In

THE best way to become á writer of advertisements is to enter the copy department of a large publishing house or a good advertising agency and learn to write copy and make lay-outs. Such positions are not easy to find. However, determination will win out in the end. A young girl ambitious to succeed as a copywriter and unable to secure such an opening, would do well to qualify as a stenographer and enter an advertising agency by that door, meanwhile making a study of advertising, as exemplified in newspapers and magazines, and practising the writing of them in her spare time, thus preparing herself to step in any junior post that might become vacant. A girl who secured a position as a copy-writer would be paid about $18 a week to start, which would be increased in proportion as experience and training proved her usefulness. If the business end of the advertising game appealed more to an aspirant, or if she wanted an all-round knowledge of advertising in all its branches,—a wise objective to aim at—she would find herself well placed in the business office of a publishing house or advertising agency, where she would acquire a good working knowledge of type, space rates and contracts. After a little experience a progressive copy-writer would draw a weekly salary of $25, ascending gradually to $50 while a distinctly original type of writer might get as much as $75 a week.

The Feminine Free Lance

THE woman who goes in for being^a free lance in the advertising field has the most difficult work of all, for she must be a specialist in every phase of advertising. She must not only know how to write copy above the average and make layouts, but understand type, be familiar with engraving processes, be a good judge of art work, have every detail connected with the production of artistic booklets and folders at her fingers’ ends, understand the magazine and newspaper field and be able to talk convincingly as well as secure contracts. It takes an allround advertising woman to do all this. She may have been born with advertising talent, but that talent must have been fostered, cultivated and matured. But when a free lance makes good she earns royal remuneration. For instance one

such copy-writer in a spare half-hour on a train wrote a piece of advertising, including the invention of a slogan, that brought her $150, and although this seems enormous pay, years of training as well as inborn originality lay behind it. An eightthousand word advertising article that took four hours to write yielded $210. It can thus be seen that there is more money in free lance work, provided a good connection has been established, than in a salaried position, although as much as $4000 is known to be entered on the payroll opposite the name of one clever woman copy-writer.

Sex is no disqualification in free lance work any more than in copy-writing; it is fully realized that women can frequently give the feminine slant when writing of things pertaining to their own sphere that are outside of a man’s personal experience. But at the present stage of developments it is not easy for a woman to get

into the charmed circle of highly-paid advertisers; to do so she must either show outstanding originality or use untiring persistence to wedge her way in and work up.

The work, while very interesting, has the disadvantage of often being done under stress of waiting presses and á strict time limit, involving considerable nervous strain. But it impels a woman to keep up-to-date. No one must be more conversant with current topics than the copy-writer. She must know what is going on in the field of sport, the realm of literature, the world of fashion, the arena of politics and realize the trend of the times, being familiar with “catch words” and phrases that reflect the tendency of the hour, for all these things help in her writing. Hardly a subject can be brought into conversation that she does not know something about. Her work in one day may require a knowledge of period furniture, old Chinese pottery, missals and early Italian art. Two young women in a museum were seen to be intently studying the dress of the Pharaohs and taking notes; they were copy-writers preparing to advertise a large importation of bead necklaces.

The outstanding woman copy-writer takes trips to great cities in order to gain stimulus and inspiration in her work. One such writer spent some weeks in England this summer for the purpose of visiting f amous potteries, being sent by the establishment for which she writes. Like newspaper work, advertising is apt to develop an ambition to travel, and copy-writers are apt to go far afield. A Toronto girl who went to California found a position in the advertising offices of a department store at $45 a week, and before long was given two raises for her excellent work. Another Toronto girl, who was once on a city daily, is now editing a house organ for a large New York store, earning a fine salary and having full control of everything pertaining to her little magazine. But Canada is beginning to fall in line with openings for women in advertising. One of the brightest and most successful young women in this work includes among her other activities the duties of publicity manager of an important steamship line and her advertisements certainly make the reader keen to take the trips so enticingly described. In one of our large cities

a girl has full charge of the mail order catalogue, an important post. Then there are quite a few women “free lances” making their way in various parts of Canada.

Girls with a gift for terse, snappy, pungent writing, would do well to study the advertising field and aim at finding openings in it, while those who can express themselves with originality, graciousness and persuasive charm, should have no difficulty in securing places if they go about their search in the spirit of being willing to start at the bottom and learn the work. Best of all the benefits that advertising offers those at the top is that it leads to mental growth and enrichment. The progressive writer is always learning something new and widening her horizon. The ages’ wealth of knowledge, the beauty of old races, the storied past,—she delves in and makes her own.

Some Outstanding Women In Advertising

THE following are only a few of the many women who have found remunerative and interesting work in the sphere of advertising:—

A Portage la Prairie girl, who also lived in Winnipeg and Edmonton, Miss Evelyn Mackie, is now managing the woman’s department of a Montreal Advertising Agency. She started her work as a copywriter with a shopping page in a Winnipeg daily. Then she took a jump to London, becoming a copy-writer in Selfridge’s big store, and rounded out her experiences by some months in New York just before assuming her present position. Miss Mackie is the possessor of both humor and originality and her advertisements are the kind that impel reading. Of her experiences in London she relates:—“I found Selfridge’s a most inspiring place and at first was tempted to be very flowery. I remember about the first copy I ever wrote there. It was ‘Baby Week’ and some special advertising was being put out. When I saw the charming sketches of ‘Master’ and ‘Miss Baby’, they went right to my head, and I straightway went skyrocketing into the clouds. Later when the copy was put before Mr. Selfridge to O. K. he said ‘You want to pull that new copy-writer down to earth about ten feet.’ Their idea of pulling me down to earth was to relegate me to that underworld, the Bargain Basement. There I eulogized on the convincing qualities of the phlegmatic broom, and wrote glowingly of how far half-a-sovereign could travel, while becoming transformed ihto lace curtains, cotton roses, pink hosiery, striped ties, sturdy underwear and sweets thrown in for good measure.

“Once I was sent to the babies’ wear department to write up about two hundred bonnets. As I gazed at these fascinating little bits of headgear it struck me that we only wanted about two hundred babies’ heads to fit under them, so I headed the advertisements, “Wanted, Two Hundred Babies to Wear Two Hundred Little Bonnets,” and proceeding to describe the type of blue-eyed or browneyed little folk who were asked to come to Selfridge’s for the bonnets. Next day the firm had a letter from a fond mother eulogizing the charms of her triplets and begging for three of the bonnets, under the impression that they were being given away.”

The Only Woman Space Buyer In Canada

ONE of the best-known advertising women in our country is Misf Pennell, whose particular w'ork is to buj space in magazines and newspaper» throughout the Dominion. In her offic« are two large blackboards, one for dailj newspapers and the other for magazine» and special publications, each one having its space rate and the amount of its circulation entered opposite it. This was Miss Pennell’s own idea and has provee to be a great saving of time. She places al contracts personally, and has recentlj completed a trip to the West for the purpose of calling on publications with whicl she does business.

Miss Pennell, who is an authority oi advertising, started in her present firm— a large advertising agency—asvtenog rapher, and learned the business advertising by having contracts dictât* to her, becoming so thoroughly familii with such negotiations that she was final given this branch of the work to lo.ok aft and taken into the firm as a member of

MISS EDITH MACDONALD, who writes advertisements for one >f Canada’s largest commercial establishnents, has a distinctive and graceful style >f writing, in which originality and harnony are uppermost. Her faculty of eeing things in a vivid way and describng them with piquancy, pointedness and ¡harm, has led to her becoming recoglized as one of the cleverest advertising vomen in Canada.

Before going into the advertising igency business as a free lance, Miss Mary M. Murphy had varied experience h the newspaper and magazine field. She legan by reporting for the Ottawa Journal, n 1917 she became editor of Everywonan’s World. After this she devoted herelf to writing short stories, also taking an xcursion into politics during the last ¡ampaign, when she made speeches.

Of her present venture she says, “I tave been told that I had courage to start tut alone. I am very well aware of it. >o far, however, I have not found that my teing a woman has handicapped me one út, for that there is an advertising field in diich women can find a place is very vident.”

Miss Murphy does not confine herself o writing to women, but covers the enire advertising field, making a specialty Q getting out booklets, pamphlets and ither sale-promoting devices. She brings highly-trained mind and innate ability o her heavy undertaking.

Miss R. G. Thomas, who is the secreary -treasurer of a prominent advertising .gency, was the first person to be employed by this firm when it started in 911. She grew up with it and now holds ?n important executive position, having ■harge of several departments involving i thorough understanding of the financial ¡nd of the business.

Miss Nell Dyas is one of those who stepped from newspaper advertising to a lucrative position in a large advertising agency, and has made a distinct place for herself in this work.

Miss Agnes M. Schoolbredis another young woman who has made a distinct success of copy-writing and other branches of publicity work. At one time she conducted her own advertising agency in Montreal, but sold out two or three years ago to engage in free lance work.

MISS MARION E. FARRELL, the advertising manager for one of Montreal’s largest stores, has met with great success as a copy-writer and executive. She began her chosen work as a free lancé, writing for several small firms. Her next step was to become a member of the personal service staff of a large store, where she was one day asked to assist a newspaper man who required help in describing certain articles. These writeups were noted in the advertising office of the store; they sent for her and gave her the writing of the advertisements for the Gazette. Although a woman on their advertising staff was a novelty, it was a successful one, for not long afterwards Miss Farrell was made assistant to the manager. A further promotion followed when she accepted a position in her present firm to take full charge of the advertising, and she has now done this work for four years. About three years ago she was invited to join the Montreal Publicity Association, which now numbers five women among its members, two of them being free lances.

Miss Farrell attributes her success to her fondness for good books, and to her mother having always insisted on her expressing herself in clear, correct English.