What makes the differences in the social privileges given to one class of workers above another? In reality, we are all workers. No one ought to live, if in health, who does not work. But for some forms of work, men and women receive an income, and nothing more. For other work, men and women may or may not receive a large personal income, but their work is recognized, they are a part of the best social circles, and when they die, a city or a nation grieves.
The essential difference is this: that one is honor-work, and one is not. Wherever in the world work is done in a spirit of love and fidelity, it brings its own reward in recognition and in personal affection. Sooner or later, honor-work receives honor.
Another reason for exaltation of one form of work above another, is that some kinds of work are so very hard to do. They involve the intense and complicated action of many and of complex powers. It may be hard physical work to break stones for a road-way, but the task itself is a simple one—the lifting of the arm and dropping it again with sufficient force to split a rock apart. But the writing of a prose masterpiece, such as the Areopagitica, involves the highest human faculties in harmonious action. If we add to the requirements of prose, the rhythm, the exalted imagery, and perhaps the assonance and rhyme of verse, we still further increase the difficulty of the task, and the honor of its successful achievement. The king-work of a powerful monarch, the president-work of a republican leader, is serious work to do. Our honor is not all given to the king or president income, salary, or office; it is a tribute to hard and royal-minded work.
Household service is personal service. It cannot be made a thing of set hours, and of measurably set tasks, as office-work maybe. We may talk of “eight-hour shifts,” but they are scarcely practicable. Not every baby would go to successive “shifts”! House-demands vary, not only with every household, but with every day.
When love-making is wholly scientific, then domestic service will be. There is in it the same delicate personal adjustment, the changing requirements of weather, health, temper, and season, of emergency and stress, that are to be found in the most purely personal relation. When there is a period of unusual sickness through the community, not only the doctors have extra tasks, but all household servants as well.
What social recognition can be given to servants who lie, steal, who shirk every duty that can be shirked, and who are both incompetent and unfaithful? The here-and-there one faithful helper receives her meed of appreciation and affection. The whole aspect of household work will change when honor-work is given: when home-helpers come up to us, from the truthful and honor-loving class.
The school-room is the place in which the principles of work are implanted: thoroughness, grasp, speed, decision, and definite purpose. The shop is the apprentice-place of work, before one takes up individual responsibilities. The man who wishes to rise in the railroad service goes into the shops and roundhouse. The man who wishes to take charge of an important department in a department store is put to tying packages.