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Big Bosses: A Working Girl's Memoir of Jazz Age America

Autor: Althea McDowell Altemus Libro electrónico

“Dishy, witty and a ton of fun . . . [a] document of everyday life and work in 20th century America from a perspective that is all too rarely seen” (Chicago Tribune).

In her memoir, Big Bosses, Althea Altemus vividly recounts her life as a secretary for prominent—but thinly disguised—employers in Chicago, Miami, and New York during the late teens and 1920s. Alongside her, we rub elbows with movie stars, artists, and high-profile businessmen, and experience lavish estate parties that routinely defied the laws of Prohibition.

Beginning with her employment as a private secretary to James Deering of International Harvester, whom she describes as “probably the world’s oldest and wealthiest bachelor playboy,” Altemus tells us much about high society during the time, taking us inside Deering’s glamorous Miami estate, Vizcaya, an Italianate mansion worthy of Gatsby himself. Later, we meet her other notable employers, including Samuel Insull, president of Chicago Edison; New York banker S. W. Straus; and real estate developer Fred F. French. Altemus was also a struggling single mother, a fact she had to keep secret from her employers, and she reveals the difficulties of being a working woman at the time through glimpses into women’s apartments, their friendships, and the dangers—sexual and otherwise—that she and others faced. Throughout, Altemus entertains with a tart and self-aware voice that combines the knowledge of an insider with the wit and clarity of someone on the fringe.

“Big Bosses stands as a real contribution to our understanding of the history of working women in Jazz Age America.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Remarkable . . . Altemus recounts the wildest indiscretions of her employers between 1918 and 1925.” —Booklist

© 2016 The University of Chicago Press (Libro electrónico) ISBN: 9780226423760

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