File Room

Helen Bullard

At the Olmsted firm, mail came in from across the country. Secretaries opened, stamped, and numbered each piece of mail before turning it over to Helen Bullard to be passed along to the recipients.

Helen Bullard cartoons
Cartoons of Helen Bullard. Left: "Miss B. You Did That" and she feels proud, ca. 1895. Right: Telegram sanctioned by the Shadow, ca. 1905

Olmsted Archives, FRLA 47477 Olmsted Post 1949 Correspondence Collection, FRLA 20171 Scrapbook; FRLA 15821 Olmsted Employee Scrapbook, FRLA 15821-278 (cropped)

As de facto office manager, Helen Bullard kept the office running efficiently and smoothly. She was one of the first women to be hired by the firm. She started out in 1892 as a secretary for John Charles Olmsted, and by 1925 her duties had expanded. Many of her duties were organizational: keeping track of correspondence and records, assigning numbers to each Olmsted job, and sending deposits to the bank. However, she also advocated for the other women clerical workers and made suggestions to improve the efficiency and comfort of the office. For example, in a 1916 office memo she wrote:

"I suggest. . .posting a notice in the room below the lobby requesting those passing through or working there temporarily to refrain from unnecessary noises. At times it is very noisy: a good deal of talking, whistling and calling back and forth;a good deal of the latter is done by the office messengers.This seems a small matter, but when I have worked there I have found it disturbing and I can't think it very good for Miss Kelley or for the Bookkeepers, although I do not think they would wish to complain."

Her expertise was trusted and the Olmsted partners consulted with her on running the office.

Helen Bullard was an example of a career woman who worked her way up within the clerical field (though even this field had its glass ceiling). By 1925 she was earning the most of any woman in the office: $225/month, the same as plans clerk Harry Perkins. Compared with other managerial clerical roles, this salary was above average for a woman in her position.

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Last updated: January 13, 2016

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