It is quite likely that for a time the old fashioned “mistress,” and the old fashioned “servant” will continue to cling to past customs; but once it is proved that domestic labor limited to eight hours a day and six days a week, brings a better, more intelligent, more efficient class of employees to the home, the most obdurate employer will change her mind.
No legislation is needed. If all who are trying to solve the “servant question” will begin to practice the new plan in their own homes, the future will take care of itself and the old ways will die a natural death.
The pleasure brought by the advent of a holiday into the lives of the working people can hardly be overestimated, and it is doubtful if holidays would ever have become legalized had they not proved of distinct value to the masses. To have one day each week free from the steady grind of one’s dally work is a great relief, but to have a holiday is something still better, for it usually means a day set apart for general rejoicing.
Why do all housewives persistently disregard the right of the household employee to have legal holidays? The reason generally brought forward is that many families need their employees more on a holiday than on any other day. In many cases this is quite true on account of family reunions or the entertaining of friends, but very often the housewife could easily dispense with the services of her employees on a holiday. She does not do it, however, or only occasionally, because it is not the custom to grant holidays to women who work in private homes.
If it be impossible, on account of the exigencies of home life, to grant all legal holidays to household employees, there are many different ways of planning the housework so that other days may be given instead. Sometimes the day before or the day after a holiday will give as much pleasure as the day itself. A woman who is at the head of a home has many opportunities of coming into close contact with her employees; she can easily ascertain their wishes in this respect and act accordingly. It is more the fact of being entitled to a holiday than to have it on a certain day that ought to be emphasized.
Domestic employees would be benefited by having these extra days of liberty, just as much as all other employees. A trial is all that is necessary to show how much better a household employee will work after having a holiday. She returns to her duties with renewed strength and the knowledge that she is no longer forced to play the role of Cinderella gives her a fresh interest in life. Unfortunately the housewife has been accustomed for so many years to have her “servants” work for her all day long on every day of the week, with only a few hours off duty “on every other Sunday and on every other Thursday,” that she is rather inclined to resent such an innovation as the observance of legal holidays in domestic labor. She fails to perceive that by her present attitude she shows herself in a very unfavorable light as an employer, for the lack of holidays is decidedly one of the reasons for which housework is shunned to-day.