The spirit of independence has so deeply entered into the lives of women of all classes, that until housework be regulated in such a way as to give to those engaged in it the same rights and privileges as are granted to them in other forms of labor, the best workers will naturally seek employment elsewhere.
Housework, when carefully compared with work performed by women in factories, stores, and offices, shows to a remarkable degree how many old fashioned ways of conducting her household still cling to the modern housewife. The methods that made housekeeping a success in the time of our ancestors are not adapted to the present needs of a society in which women who earn their own living are occupying so much more important positions than formerly. Large stores and factories, requiring the cooeperation of many employees, have done more to open new avenues of work for women than could have been dreamed of in former times, when it was the custom for each family to produce at home as much as possible, if not all, that was necessary for its own consumption.
Women, as a rule, are not taught self reliance, and many who hesitate to leave their homes to earn a livelihood, find that by doing work in stores, factories, or offices, they are not utterly separated from their families. The work may be harder than they anticipated and the pay small, but there is always the hope of promotion and of a corresponding increase of wages. Business hours are frequently long, but they are limited, and after the day’s work is over, the remainder of the twenty-four hours is at the disposal of the employees, who can still enjoy the happiness and freedom associated with the life of their own social circle. Besides they have one day out of seven as a day of rest, and many legal holidays come annually to relieve the overstrain.
With housework it is very different. The woman who accepts the position of a household employee in a private home must usually make up her mind to leave her family, to detach herself from all home ties, and to take up her abode in her employer’s house. It is only occasionally, about once a week for a few hours at a time, that she is allowed to make her escape. It is a recognized fact that a change of environment has a beneficial effect upon every one, but a domestic employee must forego this daily renewal of thought and atmosphere. Even if she does not know that she needs it in order to keep her mental activities alive, the result is inevitable: to one who does nothing but the same work from early morning until late at night and who never comes in contact with the outside world except four times a month, the work soon sinks to mere drudgery.