Why should the housewife be the only employer to assume the burden of a double responsibility toward her employees? Perhaps in the country, where it might be impossible for them to live outside her home, such a necessity might arise, but in cities and suburban towns, there is absolutely no valid reason why household employees should sleep, eat, and live under their employer’s roof. It is a custom only, and truly a custom that would be “more honored in the breach than in the observance.”
In the home woman’s work is said to be never ended. If this be true, it is the fault of the woman who plans the work, for in all the positions of life, work can be carried on indefinitely if badly planned.
It is the essential thesis of this little volume that the domestic labor of women should be limited to a fixed number of hours per day in private houses.
It is not unusual at the present day for a woman to work twelve, or fourteen hours a day, or even longer, when she earns her living as a household employee. A man’s mental and physical forces begin to wane at the end of eight, nine, or ten hours of constant application to the same work, and a woman’s strength is not greater than a man’s. The truth of the proposition, abstractly considered, has been long acknowledged and nowadays requires no argument.
When a woman accepts a position in business, she is told exactly how many hours a day she must work, but when a woman is engaged to fill a domestic position in a family, the number of hours she is expected to give her employer is never specified. She is simply told that she must be on duty early in the morning before the family arises, and that she may consider herself off duty as soon as the family for whom she is working has withdrawn for the night. Is it surprising that under such conditions working women are not very enthusiastic over the domestic proposition to-day?
A household employee ought to have her hours of work as clearly defined as if she were a business employee, and there is no reason why the eight-hour labor law could not be applied as successfully to housework as to any other enterprise.
Work in business is generally divided into two periods. Yet this division can not always be effected, and in railroad and steamship positions, in post offices, upon trolley lines, in hotels, in hospitals, and in other cases too numerous to mention, where work must follow a continuous round, the working hours are divided into more than two periods, according to the nature of the work and the interests of the employer, not however exceeding a fixed number of hours per day or per week.
It would be far better for the housewife as well as for her employees, if the housework were limited in a similar way. But with the introduction of the eight-hour law in the home, certain new conditions would have to be rigidly enforced in order to ensure success.