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#44 Through Charley's Door

#44 Through Charley's Door

Author: Emily Kimbrough

This memoir picks up where Our Hearts Were Young and Gay leaves off. Emily Kimbrough and Cornelia Otis Skinner are back from Europe and onto the next step of their lives. While Cornelia finds success on the stage, Emily does not. With her mother dropping not-so-subtle hints about how women should be financially independent, Emily gets a job at Marshall Field & Company as a copywriter for its bi-monthy magazine, Fashions of the Hour. This is a chronicle of Emily's time working for Marshall Field as it is a look at the company itself.

As a memoir, this was neither as funny as Our Hearts Were Young and Gay nor was it as introspective as I felt it could have been. Kimbrough was among the first wave of women to have a career in a non-traditional realm and while she provides some details on how being a part of the workforce affected her friendships with friends who did not work, I wish she had gone more into how earning their own salaries affected her and her co-workers. Did being financially independent lead to even more freedom? Kimbrough continued to live with her parents after she started working for Marshall Field and there is a wonderful story where her supervisor tasks Kimbrough with finding out whether a female co-worker is pregnant and, more importantly, whether she is married. It's the deeper look into the career of these early working women that I really wanted to know and I don't feel as if I really got it here.

I was fascinated by the details Kimbrough provided about Marshall Field in the 1920s. I had no idea that Marshall Field had once had a book department or that its head buyer had been so influential in publishing. Marcella Hahner was the first bookseller to ask a writer to appear before the public and sign books and other booksellers based their book orders on what Marshall Field's ordered. Marshall Field encouraged its employees to be proactive and welcomed ideas from the bottom rung. Its philosophy was that all their employees had a right to fail (and face the appropriate consequences)--if you had an idea and believed in it, the company would allow you to implement it. Marshall Field was a unique and innovative company in its time and there is a fascinating story there. I'm sure someone has written a book about the history of the company. If not, they should.

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A Room Without a Book is a Room Without a Soul

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