1902 - THE DOMESTIC PROBLEM - Both Sides of the Question Presented by One Who Has Been Mistress and Maid - The Golden Rule If Applied Would Solve the Problem
(Writer for The Sun.)
“Wanted – A capable American house girl.” Such is the tenor of many “want” ads running in the newspapers at this time of year throughout the country. And, indeed all through the year one is met often with the inquiry, “Do you know a good American girl I can get?” As long as there are homes, this domestic problem will be of no small interest...
Many families are obliged to keep a girl; many others prefer to keep one; in fact even in Maine where so many women do their own housework, especially in the rural districts, efficient house girls are actual necessities. And yet, good American help is very scarce... Why are there so few American girls doing housework? Why do they prefer mill work or shop work even, and especially clerkships and office work – anything, in fact, to housework?
It cannot be on the financial score. To be sure girls in other occupations handle more money, but the average girl cannot clear as much as can the average house girl. A good girl can always command at least three dollars a week; and an ambitious one will hardly make a practice of work for less, unless there are very exceptional advantages to a place. Quite a number of places pay $3.50 to $4.00 per week. That is all clear. No board, room rent, oil, soap or fuel to come out of it. Besides having little or no laundry bill it does not begin to cost the house girl so much to dress as it does girls in many other situations. The house girl lives two-thirds of the time in her wrapper; can keep her best suit good a long time, wear out but one pair of shoes as a rule, and but one pair of rubbers a year; and can do a part at least of her own sewing. Whether meat is high or low, she has it, and her wages just the same; and whether coal be exorbitant in price as now, she is warm and at no extra expense. There are no dull times when one has not plenty of work. On the contrary it is difficult to get what vacation she wants... A strong girl able to work the year round can easily save $50 a year, and take two weeks vacation.
Then house work is the most healthful physical labor a woman can perform and it is essentially worman's work. When other forms of labor for women have been held in question, there has been no doubt about this. Select a dozen each of mill girls, shop girls, dress makers, milliners and house girls, and the healthiest of them all will be the house girls. Paying and healthful, where then is the drawback? Why are
there always more good places than good girls to fill them?
One reason, and perhaps that which influences girls most, is the way housegirls are considered. Too often they are looked down upon, merely because they do housework... This feeling of caste is away out of date. Nor does the fact that many house girls are uneducated excuse this, for in every community are mistresses with no more education than many a house girl possesses and yet the money of their husbands
opens the gates of society to them. In most cases a house girl is shut out of much society by the nature of things...
But the girls, themselves? Granted, they are often not congenial; neither are all you meet in society congenial to you. And then how inconsistent it is to treat house girls as if they were hardly fit to be noticed at all and yet allow the children of the family to spend hours in the society of those same girls...
A second reason for girls preferring almost anything to housework lies in the unreasonableness of many mistresses... And lastly, house girls are often too closely confined. Their sisters of the shop or mill have Saturday afternoon part of the year, and their evenings all of the year – except for extra work which means extra pay. House girls have a right at least to one afternoon and two evenings a week to themselves... It is necessary for a girl to have a chance to go out or she will feel like a prisoner, will grow morbid and lose the extra strength a little relaxation brings...
Housework is a profession and should be accorded more honor than it receives. The house girl should strive to perfect herself in it; to learn to do all its branches as well and as quickly as possible... In fact, if both mistress and maid would bear always in mind the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would that they should do to you,” there would be no Domestic Problem.
One Who Has Been There.
The Lewiston Daily Sun
November 15, 1902
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