Stenographers–those gals (rarely guys) trained in something called shorthand–were in demand when Manpower, Inc., opened its doors locally fifty years ago. The area’s first temp agency sent them out wearing white gloves–accessories that connoted a woman of refinement and good character. “It was a prestige thing!” recalls Carolyn Gatward, eighty-four.
Gatward and her late husband, Roger, started the Ann Arbor franchise with one employee after Roger lost his job as a Chrysler executive. Today, between fifty and sixty people work at the Manpower office off Jackson Rd.
Early on, besides stenographers and typists, the agency provided day laborers; men would sit in the office and wait for calls. But Gatward recalls that in 1976, at Manpower’s home office in Milwaukee, a speaker told franchisees that computers would revolutionize the work world. Perplexed, Gatward asked the man next to her, “What’s computers?” But afterward she insisted the company purchase “this great big mainframe” computer and train its own staff to use it. Today, computer and medical jobs are most common.
A stay-at-home mom and a definite white glove lady herself, Gatward had little work experience before she started placing others in jobs. But “I’ve loved it!” the woman behind Manpower exclaims. “I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction out of it–and a lot of people put to work have benefited.”