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COLLECTION Identifier: B-3: M-118

Records of the Bureau of Vocational Information, 1908-1932


Correspondence, questionnaires, printed material, etc., of the Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations and its predecessor Bureau of Vocational Information.


  • Creation: 1908-1932


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access. Unrestricted. Originals are closed; use microfilm M-118.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the Bureau of Vocational Information as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


11.68 linear feet ((28 file boxes) plus 2 oversize folders)

This collection contains some of the office files of the Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations and Bureau of Vocational Information. The bulk of the material consists of Bureau of Vocational Information correspondence, questionnaires, and printed material, the material about secretarial work making up the largest portion. The Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations files consist mostly of the transcripts of a series of lectures (1915-1916) on vocational opportunities for women. Some of the information gathered by Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations was incorporated into Bureau of Vocational Information files in 1919 and is still to be found there. Except for the minutes of one joint meeting of the Bureau of Vocational Information Board of Managers and the Advisory Council in 1926 (#28), this collection does not include the administrative or financial records of either organization.

The papers provide information about occupational opportunities available to women, the training required, the advantages of certain fields, and also about the people and other organizations involved in the effort to educate women about these opportunities. The employer and employee questionnaires and interviews reveal much about contemporary attitudes towards working women, and social and economic conditions for women in the 1920s.

Beatrice Doerschuk, who was associated with Bureau of Vocational Information from 1916-1926, "reorganized" the papers (ca.1928), using Bureau of Vocational Information folder headings. Her overall arrangement and description were retained, with only minor changes.

In researching fields of employment, Bureau of Vocational Information corresponded with and sent out many questionnaires to employers and employees. Correspondence was filed separately in some cases and with questionnaires in others. Correspondence within a folder is arranged chronologically, with the exception of exchanges of letters with an individual or an organization that were found clipped together. In folders that contain a variety of materials, these are also arranged chronologically, with undated items at the end.

The questionnaire numbering system is not consistent. Some have more than one set of numbers; a few have no numbers. In folders in which questionnaires predominate, they are arranged numerically, with unnumbered ones at the end. Further explanations of which of the Bureau of Vocational Information numbering systems was followed appear in the inventory when necessary. Not all numbers in all folders are sequential. In some instances, Bureau of Vocational Information subdivided returned questionnaires into branches of that occupation and filed them accordingly.

Bureau of Vocational Information detached the name portions of some of the questionnaires and filed them separately. Wherever possible they have been returned to their proper places.

In gathering information, Bureau of Vocational Information collected a large amount of print and near-print material: e.g., publications of the United States Departments of Labor, Agriculture and Interior, the Federal Board for Vocational Education, universities and colleges, professional organizations and societies, trade associations, museums and libraries, as well as newspaper and magazine articles and reprints. Printed items that concern women's employment, education, and training specifically were retained where they were found throughout the collection. They are listed in the inventory only when the entire contents of a folder are printed. Items dealing with various occupations in a general way, and readily available on microfilm or at other repositories (e.g., reprints, clippings, government publications), were discarded. Printed items dealing with occupations in a general way, but less likely to be available, were given to an appropriate repository.

Newspaper clippings, with the exception of enclosures, were removed from all folders and filmed separately at the end of the collection (Series IV). The inventory indicates which folders included clippings.

Although questionnaires, correspondence, and printed items make up the bulk of this collection, such other items as interviews, office notes, lists, bibliographies, lectures and reports are also present in many folders. The inventory is not exhaustive, listing only the items that make up the bulk of the material in each folder, or what seem to be particularly significant items.

Series I, Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations, includes one folder of publications by and about Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations and a lecture course, "Women in Industry: Her Opportunities in Business Today," which is arranged chronologically.

Series II, Bureau of Vocational Information, includes most issues of the News-Bulletin (1922-1926), and the files on occupations containing correspondence, questionnaires, printed material, etc. These files are arranged alphabetically by the name of the occupation, ending with sections entitled "Unclassified" and "Women (general)."

Series III, the Bureau of Vocational Information Study of Secretarial Work includes employee and employer questionnaires and correspondence, information about the statistical analysis of the questionnaires, correspondence with individuals and agencies involved in the study, and the draft of "The Woman Secretary." Employee questionnaires are arranged alphabetically by state. Within folders, questionnaires are arranged numerically and correspondence chronologically. On many of the questionnaires there are small numbers in the margins and elsewhere on the page. These were written in red ink and were evidently added by Bureau of Vocational Information to facilitate the evaluation and analysis of the responses. The correspondence with cooperating agencies and individuals is arranged alphabetically according to the order used by Bureau of Vocational Information.

Series IV, Clippings. These were removed from #43-368, arranged numerically by folder, and so identified.


The Bureau of Vocational Information of New York City was the successor to the Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations (IBO). Founded in 1911-1912 by the New York alumnae associations of the Seven Sister colleges, plus those of Wells and Cornell, the Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations listed the following as its purposes in its constitution: to secure employment for college women or other specially equipped persons; to investigate and to do all in its power to develop opportunities for women and to increase their efficiency in occupations; to establish close connections with the colleges, especially in advising and informing undergraduates; to ensure in every way a free and wise choice of occupation.

Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations published studies on wartime training, and on employment opportunities in a number of fields, including the civil service and scientific work. It provided employment information and advice, as well as a placement service for women. After World War I, in 1919, Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations was dissolved and Bureau of Vocational Information took over its research, information, and education functions. According to a letter (May 7, 1953) from Beatrice Doerschuk to the Radcliffe Women's Archives, "Its purpose was research in women's occupations with service and counsel both to individual women and to colleges through publication, institutes, and personal consultation of which there was a steady flow."

Emma P. Hirth, director of Bureau of Vocational Information, wrote on December 11, 1919: "The purpose of this to gather and distribute information concerning vocational opportunities for trained women. We are engaged at the present time on three intensive studies including: a study of the opportunities for women in statistical work; a study of the law as a vocation for women; and a study of opportunities for the woman chemist."

Bureau of Vocational Information subsequently published the three studies referred to by Emma Hirth and many others, including Positions of Responsibility in Department Stores and Other Retail Selling Organizations and Training For the Professions and Allied Occupations.

The financial support Bureau of Vocational Information received from individuals and foundations was not sufficient to maintain it. Despite attempts to affiliate with other organizations and to reorganize, Bureau of Vocational Information was forced to close its doors in 1926. Research on secretarial work had begun in 1924 but was never completed. Beatrice Doerschuk continued to work on the subject after Bureau of Vocational Information was dissolved in 1926; she wrote a draft of "The Woman Secretary," but it was never published.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. I. Intercollegiate Bureau of Occupations, #1-27
  2. II. Bureau of Vocational Information, #28-369
  3. III. Bureau of Vocational Information Study of Secretarial Work, #370-509
  4. IV. Clippings, #510o-513o

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 46-9

The records of the Bureau of Vocational Information were given to the Schlesinger Library by Beatrice Doerschuk, assistant director of the Bureau of Vocational Information, in October 1946.


The records of the Bureau of Vocational Information were selected for microfilming because they are frequently requested by researchers and the material is in fragile condition. The film is available on interlibrary loan.

All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.

The pages of some items were numbered to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader, and researchers. Blank pages were not numbered.

All reels were proofread by the processor and corrections made where necessary. These corrections may disrupt the sequence of frame numbers.

Some of the material in the collection was difficult to film, due to such problems as flimsy paper with text showing through, faint pencil notations, and creased and brittle paper. The film was carefully produced to insure that these items are as legible as possible.

The clippings in #510-513 were discarded after filming.

Photographs were microfilmed with the collection. They have also been filmed with the Schlesinger Library's photograph collection (M-54).

In many cases, the enclosures referred to in letters are missing.

The reverse sides of outdated letterhead and form letters were sometimes used by Bureau of Vocational Information staff for carbon copies, drafts, or notes; print may show through. The letter-head/printed sides were filmed only if they are not represented elsewhere in the collection, or if they contain unique text.

In some cases, magazines, membership directories, and other multiple-paged items were not filmed in their entirety, but only the pertinent page(s), with the title page where necessary to establish name and date of publication.

In a small number of cases title pages only were microfilmed to indicate the type of material Bureau of Vocational Information collected.

After microfilming periodicals were removed to the Schlesinger Library periodical file.

  1. Folders 1-27: M-118, Reel 1
  2. Folders 28-51: M-118, Reel 2
  3. Folders 52-90: M-118, Reel 3
  4. Folders 91-105: M-118, Reel 4
  5. Folders 106-137: M-118, Reel 5
  6. Folders 138-151: M-118, Reel 6
  7. Folders 152-174: M-118, Reel 7
  8. Folders 175-197: M-118, Reel 8
  9. Folders 198-213: M-118, Reel 9
  10. Folders 214-237: M-118, Reel 10
  11. Folders 238-260: M-118, Reel 11
  12. Folders 261-283: M-118, Reel 12
  13. Folders 284-303: M-118, Reel 13
  14. Folders 304-333: M-118, Reel 14
  15. Folders 334-353: M-118, Reel 15
  16. Folders 354-374: M-118, Reel 16
  17. Folders 375-382: M-118, Reel 17
  18. Folders 383-392: M-118, Reel 18
  19. Folders 393-402: M-118, Reel 19
  20. Folders 403-408: M-118, Reel 20
  21. Folders 409-415 M-118, Reel 21
  22. Folders 416-427: M-118, Reel 22
  23. Folders 428-434: M-118, Reel 23
  24. Folders 435-442: M-118, Reel 24
  25. Folders 435-442: M-118, Reel 25
  26. Folders 452-469: M-118, Reel 26
  27. Folders 470-488: M-118, Reel 27
  28. Folders 489-513o: M-118, Reel 28

Container List

  1. Box 1: Folders 1-24
  2. Box 2: Folders 25-28, 32-45
  3. Box 3: Folders 46-76, 78-79
  4. Box 4: Folders 80-100
  5. Box 5: Folders 101-122
  6. Box 6: Folders 123-130, 131-144
  7. Box 7: Folders 145-161
  8. Box 8: Folders 162-181
  9. Box 9: Folders 182-201
  10. Box 10: Folders 202-216
  11. Box 11: Folders 217-232
  12. Box 12: Folders 233-246
  13. Box 13 Folders 247-261
  14. Box 14: Folders 263-283
  15. Box 15: Folders 284-304
  16. Box 16: Folders 305-331
  17. Box 17: Folders 332-351
  18. Box 18: Folders 352-369
  19. Box 19: Folders 370-384
  20. Box 20: Folders 385-397
  21. Box 21: Folders 398-409
  22. Box 22: Folders 410-423
  23. Box 23: Folders 424-433
  24. Box 24: Folders 434-444
  25. Box 25: Folders 445-460
  26. Box 26: Folders 461-476
  27. Box 27: Folders 477-497
  28. Box 28: Folders 498-509

Processing Information

Reprocessed: July 1987

By: Bert Hartry

Bureau of Vocational Information (New York, N.Y.). Records of the Bureau of Vocational Information, 1908-1932: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
The records were reprocessed and microfilmed under a grant from Clara Schiffer.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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