From Scribe to Administrative Professional:

April 17, 2017 10:34 AM

The History of the Secretarial Profession


The word “secretary” ultimately comes from the same Latin word that gave us “secret.” Originally, it meant, “one entrusted with the secrets and confidences of a superior.” In Middle English, it was secretarie and in Middle Latin, it was secretaries. The word “secretary,” something close to its present meaning, has been with us at least 500 years.

The roles arose out of the natural need for a prominent person to whom confidential matters could be entrusted and who could act as an assistant for a principal. History proves that secretaries existed in Rome prior to the establishment of the empire. They were usually educated men who took dictation as “scribes,” and often times acted as trusted advisors.

The earliest secretaries used chisels and stones, clay, wood, or wax tablets. Shorthand became part of the preparation and training.

Throughout the years, men continued as secretaries to mostly the wealthy and following the Renaissance men continued to dominate the role until the late 1880’s.With the invention of the writing machine, many women entered the workforce in various clerical roles.

During the industrial expansion at the turn of the century, business offices faced a paperwork crises. Women solved the crisis by adapting well to new technologies, such as the adding and calculating machine, telephone, and typewriter. Because many women aspired to hold secretarial positions, they began attending secretarial schools to attain superior skills. The demand for secretaries was so great that it outpaced the supply.

In the 1930’s, the number of men with the title “secretary” dwindled and women dominated the workforce. Seeking the professional status and pay enjoyed by the male counterparts, women were promoted from steno pools, and graduating from business colleges or secretarial schools.

In 1942, a group of secretaries in America recognized that    continuing education was imperative to career success, and became the nucleus of the National Secretaries Association (NSA) to help professionalize the organization. In 1951, the NSA (now known as the International Association of Administrative Professionals) administered the first Certified Profession Secretaries Examination, a standard of excellence for the profession.

Today, “secretaries” no longer “simply” type correspondence for “the boss.” The job has expanded to include more responsibilities from meeting planning to data base management to full office management.

April 23—29 is Administrative Professionals Week with April 26 being Administrative Professionals Day (formerly known as Secretaries Day).Make sure you help all your customers find products that represent their true appreciation for the dedication and hard work their Administrative Professionals provide.

timeline administrative professionals

Adapted from


Back to Blogs