SEPTEMBER 14, 1936
ALBANY, N.Y.—The weather is glorious with a real tinge of autumn in the air, and it makes one loathe to wind one's way back to cities even for a short time, after nearly ten days entirely out of a big city. Tomorrow we must go first to New York and then to Washington and a busy round of formal living will begin again.
Today, however, I want to continue a little on the subject which I began in my last article. I am constantly being beseiged by letters which ask that I do something to make domestic service an occupation as well considered as any other kind of work by which a woman earns her living. This can never be done, it seems to me, overnight, for it requires the education of both the mistress and the maid. Even writing minimum standards for domestic servants is a difficult job, for every man's home is his castle, and every man's home requires a different kind of service.
The younger people will find it easier to fall into new ways and if we have maids on an eight hour basis and live up to certain rules and regulations, they will not find it so hard. The older people, on the other hand, many of them kindness itself, find it particularly difficult to understand that kindness is not exactly what is needed, but that every individual wishes an opportunity to live a life of their own for a certain number of hours out of every twenty-four.
This is why factory work is preferred by so many young people to work in domestic service, and yet there is a great field for rendering really helpful service and perhaps more opportunities for employment in this field than in any other at the present time.
I think perhaps one of the best things that could happen to us would be to have to go back to the practices of our great-great-grandmothers'—If they had a large household to run, they did not just hire people and expect them to do all the work. Sometimes they invited their friends to let them teach their daughters how to keep house or they took on girls from the neighborhood. They paid them, but they worked with them. That would make a different thing of domestic service, right away, wouldn't it? But, along with it would have to go the obligation to see that no one worked too hard or too long, that no one was underpaid and so I suppose there would have to be some kind of checking up even on these home occupations.
My grandmother or my mother-in-law could run this kind of a household excellently! I am not so sure how many of my generation would come out very well! I am sure if we are going to solve this very pressing question we have to give it some thought and we have to get started. Perhaps the Department of Labor or the unions will take it up and tell us what we should do.