Women and young girls who face the necessity of self support, or who wish to lead a life of independence, no longer choose housework as a means of earning a livelihood. It is evident that there is a reason, and a very potent one, that decides them to accept any kind of employment in preference to the work offered them in a private home. Wages, apparently, have little to do with their decision, nor other considerations which must add very much to their material welfare, such as good food in abundance, and clean, well ventilated sleeping accommodations, for these two important items are generally included at present in the salaries of household employees. Concessions, too, are frequently made, and favors bestowed upon them by many of their employers, yet few young girls, and still fewer women are content to work in private families.
It is a deplorable state of affairs, and women seem to be gradually losing their courage to battle with this increasingly difficult question: How to obtain and retain one’s domestic employees?
The peace of the family and the joy and comfort of one’s home should be a great enough incentive to awaken the housewife to the realization that something must be wrong in her present methods. It is in vain that she complains bitterly, on all occasions, of the scarcity of good servants, asserting that it is beyond her comprehension why work in factories, stores, and offices, should be preferred to the work she offers.
Is it beyond her comprehension? Or has she never considered in what way the work she offers differs from the work so eagerly accepted? Does she not realize that the present laws of labor adopted in business are very different from those she still enforces in her own home? Why does she not compare housework with all other work in which women are employed, and find out why housework is disdained by nearly all self supporting women?
Instead of doing this, she sometimes avoids the trouble of trying to keep house with incompetent employees by living in hotels, or non-housekeeping apartments; but for the housewife who does not possess the financial means to indulge herself thus, or who still prefers home life with all its trials to hotel life, the only alternative is to submit to pay high wages for very poor work or to do a great part of the housework herself. In both cases the result is bad, for in neither does the family enjoy the full benefit of home, nor is the vexatious problem, so often designated as the “servant question,” brought any nearer to a solution.
The careful study of any form of labor invariably reveals some need of amelioration, but in none is there a more urgent need of reform than in domestic labor in private homes.
It is more for the sake of the housewife than for her employee that a reform is to be desired. The latter is solving her problem by finding work outside the home, while the former is still unduly harassed by household troubles. With a few notable exceptions, only those who are unqualified to compete with the business woman are left to help the householder, and the problem confronting her to-day is not so much how to change inefficient to efficient help, but how to obtain any help at all.