Women Working Harvard Libraries Women Working Home

Bureau of Vocational Information

The Bureau of Vocational Information (BVI) 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 what later became known as the Seven Sisters colleges (Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley), Wells, and Cornell, the IBO 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.

The IBO 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. In 1915–1916 the organization also offered a course at the New York University School of Commerce entitled "Woman in Industry: Her Opportunities in Business Today." Charlotte Perkins Gilman gave the introductory lecture, which was followed by sessions on opportunities for women in fields ranging from business and social work to the ministry and bacteriology.

In 1919, the IBO was dissolved and the BVI took over its functions. The organization continued to conduct research and provide information to colleges and individual women on career and employment issues. The organization generated the data for their publications by sending out questionnaires to both employers and employees in particular industries. This work led to the publication of numerous studies.

The financial support the BVI received was not, however, sufficient to maintain it. Despite attempts to affiliate with other organizations and to reorganize, the Bureau was dissolved in 1926, leaving a massive research project on secretarial work, begun in 1924, incomplete. The project had gathered both quantitative and qualitative information from employers and employees about secretarial work in almost every state. The questionnaires completed by women working in the field include information about their educational backgrounds, professional training, career paths, and family and personal economic situations. Beatrice Doerschuk, who had served as the BVI's assistant director and been associated with the organization from 1916–1926, continued working on this study after the organization folded. The resulting manuscript, The Woman Secretary, was never published.

Digitized Archives

Institutional Records

B-3/M-118. Bureau of Vocational Information Records, 1914–1921. B-3, folders 3, 34, 39, 141–144, 265, 289. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Electronic Finding Aid

Bureau of Vocational Information (New York, N.Y.) Records, 1908–1932: A Finding Aid. Radcliffe College.

Browse Publications Digitized for Women Working

The manuscript and archival materials selected for Women Working can be used for research, for the creation of class projects, or to illustrate secondary works. In some cases the items are drawn from larger collections at Harvard. Most of the digitized selections from collections contain a range of materials providing a broader context for understanding the subject.