According to the number of employees she engages, the housewife will have eight, sixteen, or twenty-four hours of work to distribute among them, and to meet her peculiar needs she will find it necessary at the outset to devote some hours to a satisfactory scheme. After testing several, she will probably have to begin all over again before she finally succeeds in evolving one that is available. But the problem is interesting in itself, and always admits of a solution.
It may not be amiss to make this final suggestion for the woman who is willing to give the new plan a fair trial: she should follow the example of the business man when he is in need of new employees, and advertise for help, stating hours of work, and requesting that all applications be made by letter. This disposes rapidly of the illiterate, and in the majority of cases, a woman who writes a good, legible, and accurate hand, is more apt to be efficient in her work than one who sends in a dirty, careless, ill-expressed and badly spelled application. Through advertising one comes into touch with many women it would be impossible to reach otherwise. It is also the most advantageous way of bringing the employer and employee together, inasmuch as it dispenses entirely with the services of a third person, who, naturally can not be expected to offer gratuitous service.
The plan of limiting housework to eight hours a day is not an idle theory; it has been in successful operation for several years. Yet it is not easy to change the habit of years. There are many housewives who would loudly declare it impossible to conform to such business rules in the household; and many of the older generation of cooks and housemaids would agree. But when such a plan has been generally adopted, the domestic labor problem will be solved, and it does not appear that in the present state of social organization, it can be solved in any other way.
Under the present system of housekeeping, there is not one day out of the three hundred and sixty-five that a domestic employee has the right to claim as a day of rest, not even a legal holiday.
It is remarkable that this fact, showing so forcibly one of the greatest disadvantages connected with housework, should attract so little attention. No one seems to care about the fate of the “servant girl,” as she is so often disdainfully called. During six days of the week she works on the average fourteen hours a day, but no one stops to notice that she is tired. On the seventh day, instead of resting as every other employee has the right to do, her work is merely reduced to nine, eight, or perhaps seven hours; and yet she needs a day of rest as much as every other woman who earns her bread. The rights of the domestic employee are ignored on all sides apparently. In public demonstrations of dissatisfaction between employers and employees the most oppressed class of the working people—the women who do housework—has never yet been represented.