Abstract

Women who enjoy nurturing and serving others are often assumed to either be fulfilling their "natural" calling or to be stuck in an outdated and limiting gender role. Both interpretations ignore the social aspects of these activities. In this study, based on my interviews with 49 secretaries, I first highlight a small group of women who enjoy donning the characteristics of motherhood at their jobs. I analyze their approach to work not as an example of their gendered essence but as a reasonable response to the social experiences of their lives. I then focus on an approach to work that may seem like nurturing but goes even beyond that; I call this the ethic of service. The secretaries in this group speak similarly about the ways their occupations allow them to fulfill their desire to serve humanity. The character of these women's convictions about service incorporates the feeling that they are "on this earth for a purpose," and that the purpose is to "do good" in some way, which they have been able to translate into tasks of public service in their occupations. I explore the structures of opportunities and constraints under which women working as secretaries enact the activities of nurturing and public service in their jobs.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2151-7371
Print ISSN
2151-7363
Pages
pp. 170-192
Launched on MUSE
2006-06-26
Open Access
No
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