March 03, 2015

Wite Out

Wite Out. Credit: J B / Flickr Creative Commons

This week's dip into history brings us to Dallas, 1968.

Bette Nesmith Graham was a high school dropout and a single mom who had struggled with her job as a secretary before hitting it big with her invention. 

When Graham finally became a leader herself, she brought with her memories of having to balance a young child and a demanding job, trying to scope out good caretakers, and coordinating pick-ups and drop-offs.

She also brought with her memories of clattering away all day on an electric IBM typewriter, retyping pages if there was a misspelled word, or a number that wasn’t right, or a line that the boss had changed his mind about. The job brought with it frustrations that inspired her invention.

More than a decade after she thought of this office staple, her business was lucrative enough for Graham to create the corporate space she wanted, which included a daycare, a library, and even a fish pond.

By the time she passed away, she had amassed quite a fortune — some of which she left to her favorite charities. The rest, she left to her son Michael, the boy who she had parented alone when she was a secretary - and who had found his way into music and a relatively short-lived band. It was called... the Monkees.

white out, mistakes, Culture, historical innovation

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