Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Working Gal--Sarah Margaret VanGilder

     My Grams, paternal grandmother, Sarah Margaret VanGilder Hughes, was a member of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania work force before she married George Henry Hughes in 1921.  I was told she was a stenographer/secretary; however, until this week I never knew just where she was employed, nor did I have confirmation of her employment.

     The 1917 Pittsburgh City Directory had a listing for her. At age nineteen she was a stenographer aka typist for The Sloan Typewriting Bureau. Also of interest in the directory is her home, which is listed as Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. 

     It appears that Grams had to travel into Pittsburgh from Wilkinsburg, probably on a bus or streetcar.  The Sloan Typewriter Bureau is advertised as the "oldest circular letter company in Pittsburgh."  I had to google "circular letter" to find out what it was.  Grams spent her work days typing and retyping the same form letter which was sent to groups of customers from various businesses. 

     She was a typist.  I have numerous cards and letters that my Mother and I saved, typed by Grams.  In 1977/1978, at age seventy-nine, she was still using a typewriter to write to me when I was pregnant with my first son.  

     Naturally as I am writing this, my mind is wandering to where Grams was at in her relationship with my paternal grandfather in 1917.  They had met about 1915 and were dating, although she was living in the Pittsburgh area and he was living with his folks up the Ohio River in Woodlawn, Pennsylvania.  

     It was on August 1, 1917 that George Henry Hughes joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force,  as a member of the 20th MGF (Machine Gun Force).  Pop Pop was discharged on May 16, 1919 and they were married a little more than a year later, on June 5, 1920 in Fairmont, Marion County, West Virginia.  I imagine that Grams was working as a typist up until she married.

     I do not believe that Grams worked outside the home following her marriage; however, her typewriting skills stayed with her forever.

FROM MY BROTHER, JEFF--interesting historical tidbit. Back in 1917, the person using the machine was known as a "typewriter". The word "typist" came later.

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. All comments are welcome; however, if they are inappropriate, they will not be published. 

PLEASE post your e-mail in the comment section if you would like to network about a particular surname or topic. I will capture it for my use only and not include it when I publish your comment.
© 2012, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser


  1. How nice to fill in some small blanks. Love directories!

  2. Wonderful to have this detailed confirmation of the story - and wonderful how you explored it!

  3. Pittsburgh had a great system with trollys and my grandmother would catch one and go to Pittsburgh. If I remember correctly it was the #55 that went via Wilkinsburgh, could be wrong too I was just a school age kid. Now the mass transit system are buses and service is abysmal.

  4. Do you happen to know her address in Wilkinsburg? I live there and can take a photo of it for you if the house is still there. Also...I have about 50 typewriters! LOL