Disappearing Act

Disappearing Act: Excerpted with permission from The Lives, Loves and Deaths of Splendidly Unreasonable Inventors By Jeremy Coller and Christine Chamberlain BETTE NESMITH GRAHAM Born: March 23, 1924, Dallas, Texas Died: May 12, 1980 In a discovery there must be an element of the accidental, while an invention is purely deductive. Thomas Edison SCHOOL WAS NOT A GREAT SUCCESS FOR BETTE CLAIRE MCMURRAY. A fractious, strong-willed student, Bette’s teachers may well have breathed a sigh of relief when she finally dropped out of school at seventeen, in the midst of the Second World War. In spite of the fact that she couldn’t type, Bette managed to land a job as a secretary at a law firm. On a wing and a prayer, they sent her to secretarial school, where she gained her high-school diploma. Within two years, Bette had married Warren Nesmith and they produced a son, Michael. Warren went off to war and, when he returned, the couple divorced. For the next twenty years, Bette was a single working mother. Bette did quite well, working her way up to a position as executive secretary with Texas Bank & Trust, but her typing skills still left something to be desired. When IBM came out with the new electric typewriter, complete with carbon film ribbon, Bette and a lot of her co-workers found to their dismay that their erasers were...

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