Woman of the Century/Nettie L. White

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WHITE, Miss Nettie L., stenographer, was born near Syracuse, N. Y. Her great-grandfather served in the War of the Revolution with the Massachusetts troops. On her mother's side she is connected with the Morses, from whom she inherited the persistent industry and independence which moved her in young womanhood to seek some means of earning her own maintenance. After much agitation in the choice of a profession by which to accomplish that, at the suggestion of a friend, she procured Pitman's "Manual of Phonography" and went to work without a teacher. NETTIE L. WHITE A woman of the century (page 777 crop).jpgNETTIE L. WHITE. She found the study of that cabalistic art by no means an easy one, but her ambition kept her working early and late. About 1876, when her first regular work began with Henry G. Haves, of the corps of stenographers of the House of Representatives, in Washington, D. C., women engaged in practical stenography in Washington could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and upon them fell the burden of introducing woman into a profession hitherto occupied entirely by men. In her extended congressional work of thirteen years she deeply appreciated the responsibilities of the situation, beyond merely doing the work well, in establishing a new field of labor for women, always insisting that, while she might not go upon the public platform and plead and argue for financial independence for womankind, she could help supply the statistics of what had been successfully done for the use of those who would speak. She is a young woman of pronounced individuality. Her sympathy for those struggling for place is warm, and her practical observations are always helpful to beginners. After several years of most difficult and rapid dictation work in the Capitol, she became ambitious to try her skill in the committees of Congress, but the conservative controlling power thought it would be most unbecoming for her to do what no woman had ever done before. So she had to wait till one day when the committees in session outnumbered the official force, and a newly-arrived authority gave her the satisfaction of choosing which committee she would undertake. She decided upon the committee of military affairs. General Rosecrans, the chairman, being such a kind and genial man, she thought he would be less likely than the others to object to the radical change in having flounces and feathers reporting the grave and weighty proceedings under his charge. And so it turned out. After a few questions he seemed resigned, and she seated herself at a long table opposite the friend she had urged to accompany her to keep her as well as the "Members" in countenance. In her choice of chairman she had neglected the selection of matter to be reported, and she was obliged to plunge into the obscurity of "heavy ordnance," just as fast as General Benet saw fit to proceed. She presented her report, it was accepted, and the bill was approved just the same as though she had been a man, except that the manuscript was first thoroughly examined. Constant application to her business finally affected her health, so that she was obliged to seek rest and relief in change of climate. She spent one winter in Los Angeles, Cal., and was greatly benefited. The year after her return, her friend, Miss Clara Barton, asked her services during the relief work of the Red Cross in Johnstown, Pa. It was while there she received her appointment, through civil service examination, from the Pension Bureau, going in as an expert workman on a salary of one-thousand-six-hundred dollars per year.