View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.

1/33! /&£>
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BULLETIN

OF

THE

WOMEN’S

BUREAU,

No.

106

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT
IN CHICAGO




UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
FRANCES PERKINS, SECRETARY

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, DIRECTOR

BULLETIN

OF THE WOMEN’S BUREAU,

No. 106

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT
IN CHICAGO
By
B. ELEANOR JOHNSON

UNITED STATES
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON: 1933

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D.C,




Price 10 cents




CONTENTS
I

Letter of transmittal
Introduction"
Characteristics of household employment
Purpose of the study
Method of collecting data
Classification of findings
Summary: The employing group
Summary: The household workers
Outstanding difficulties of employer and employee___________ _____
Part I. Character of the employing group________
__
Family status _ _
__
The income _____________________________________
Size of home_________________________________ _____________
Size of family______________________________ _______________
Number and age of children________________ ________________
Number of invalids and aged
Housekeeping experience of the employer
Summary
The number of employees per family
Factors determining the number of workers
Income______________________________________________
Size of the family
Number and age of the children____________________
Size of the home ________________________________ ___
Conclusions
The types of work for which assistance is employed
Full-time women workers____________________ ______________
Comparative needs of the employer for assistance in the various
branches of housework
Food preparation, serving, washing dishes
Daily and weekly care of the home
Washing, ironing, mending
Care of children___________________________
Answering bell, receiving packages, and so forth
Employee responsibility
Part-time workers___________________ _______________________
Employers’ need of assistance at different time periods during
the day
The household worker preferred by Chicago employers
Race and nativity
Domicile status
Personality traits desired in employees
Summary
Summary
Part II. Character of the employee group _________________________
Occupation
Race and nativity_____________________________________
Age---------------------------------- --------- ---------------------------------------------Marital status
Schooling
Training for household employment________________ ____
_____
Efficiency of the supply
__________________________________
Wages____________________________________________ ____________
Wages of resident employees
Wages of nonresident employees
Stability of the worker__________________
__
Preference of the worker as to domicile status




ill

Page

vn
1

1

2

3
4
4

5

8
9
9
9
10
11
11
12
12

13
14
14
14
15
16
17
18
18
18
19
19
20
21

22
22
22

23
24
26
26
27
28
29
30
31
31
32
33
35
35
36
37
39
39
42
42
43

IV

CONTENTS

Part II.—Character of the employee group—Continued.
Kinds of housework the employees liked best and could do best____
Personality traits desired by employees in the person for whom they
work
Summary
Part III. Outstanding difficulties of employer and employee____________
Difficulties of employer in securing household workers_____________
Other problems of the employer
48
Training and efficiency
48
Attitude of employee
50
Character and personality; cost of service and turnover_______
Minor problems
Varied nature of problems
Special problems of the employee
Difficulties in securing work
Hours______________
Free time
54
Amount and character of work demanded.
Attitude of others toward the work and those engaged in it____
Living conditions
No change desired
Desirability of household employment as a job________________
Summary
Appendix—Schedule forms
TEXT TABLES
1. Income of employers
2. Size of home
10
3. Size of home, size of family, and age of children, of employers reporting
income
4. Number and age of children in homes having full-time household
employees
5. Housekeeping experience of employers, by income_________________
6. Total number and average number of household workers employed by
families in each income group
7. Number of employers having full-time workers only and both full-time
and part-time workers, by income
8. Number of employees per family, by size of family_________________
9. Number of employees per family, by number and age of children in the
household__________________
10. Number of employees per family, by size of home_________________
11. Distribution of full-time women workers according to branch of house­
hold employment
18
12. Branch of housework in which the employer had the greatest and the
least need of assistance
20
13. Responsibility of full-time women employees for laundry work______
14. Number of households in which full-time women employees had major
responsibility in selected household tasks
23
15. Kinds of work for which part-time workers were employed_________
16. Comparative need of employers for household assistance during given
time periods, week days and Sundays
25
17. Race and nativity preferred by employers
26
18. Number and percent of employers having full-time women workers of
specified race and nativity in their employ
26
19. Domicile status of full-time women employees compared with prefer­
ence of employers
27
20. Traits desired most, desired least, and those seldom found in employees
by employer
29
21. Full-time women workers in each specified branch of household em­
ployment, by race and nativity
31
22. Full-time women household employees, by race and nativity________
23. Number of native-born white, foreign-born white, and Negro women
in certain selected occupations, Chicago, censuses of 1910, 1920, and
1930
24. Number and proportion of full-time women household employees in
each age group
84




44
45
46
47
47

51
52
52
53
53
53
55
56
57
57
57
58
59

9
11
12
13
14
15
15
16
17

21
24

32
33

CONTENTS

V
Page

25. Full-time women workers in each specified branch of household em­
ployment, by age group_____________________________
26. Full-time women household employees, by race and marital status,
with a distribution of the married and widowed, by number and age
of children
35
27. Schooling of full-time women householdemployees, by race_________
28. Place in which training for household employment was obtained, by
race
36
29. Training considered most valuable, by race
37
30. Branch of household employment in which employers found it neces­
sary to train new workers
37
31. Adequacy of training and experience of present full-time women em­
ployees when engaged
38
32. Efficiency of present full-time women employees in various kinds of
household work
39
33. Weekly wages and living status of full-time white women employees,
by branch of household employment
40
34. Weekly wages and living status of full-time Negro women employees,
by branch of household employment
40
35. Weekly wages of full-time white women employees, by living status
and age
41
36. Weekly wages of full-time Negro women employees, by living status
and age__________________________________
37. Time with present employer, by race
43
38. Length of employee’s experience in household and other employment,
by race
43
39. Preference of full-time women employees as to living or not living at
the place of work and number living in and living out in present
employment, by age and race
44
40. Branch of household employment full-time women workers liked best,
liked least, and could do best
45
41. Personality trait desired most, desired least, and seldom found in em­
ployer by employee
45
42. Number of employers and employees using specified methods of secur­
ing workers or work
47
43. Method used by employer to determine applicant’s qualifications___
44. Changes suggested by full-time women employees to make household
employment a more desirable occupation, by race:_________________
45. Amount of free time desired by full-time women employees, by race.
46. Desire of full-time women employees concerning direction and super­
vision of work, by age
56
47. Number of full-time women employees who had done other work and
number who planned to do other work at some future time, by race.
48. Kinds of work employees planned to do in the future, by race______




3

36

48
55

57
57

54




LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
United States Department of Labor,
Women’s Bureau,

Washington, March 31, 1933.
I have the honor to submit the findings of a study of house­
hold employment in Chicago, made by B. Eleanor Johnson under the
direction of Dr. Hazel Kyrk of the department of home economics
and household administration of the University of Chicago.
As a supplement to Women’s Bureau Bulletin No. 93, Household
Employment in Philadelphia, which was based almost wholly on
employers’ schedules, Miss Johnson’s study, to which a much larger
group of employees contributed data, should be a valuable addition to
the Bureau’s group of reports on this important subject.
Respectfully submitted.
Mary Anderson, Director.
Hon. Frances Perkins,
Secretary of Labor.
Madam:




VII

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO
INTRODUCTION
CHARACTERISTICS OF HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT

The worker who chooses employment in private households meets
conditions totally unlike those she would meet in other occupations.
The work itself is more varied in character, and the conditions under
which it is done are different. There is no similarity in the methods
of determining wages, hours, and amount of work to be done. Per­
haps the most outstanding difference of all is the attitude of the public
in general toward household employment as contrasted with its
attitude toward other occupations, and it is this prejudice that is
responsible for many of the problems within the occupation.
In contrast to industrial jobs, housework has not been analyzed and
split up into its component parts for the purpose of installing ma­
chinery or of reducing to one particular process the kind of work
assigned to each employee. The general worker in a private house­
hold is expected to carry on all the processes of all the tasks involved
in the physical care of the household. Her daily routine requires that
she do first one kind of work and then another.1
Some of the tasks of the household worker are definitely unskilled;
they are quickly learned and are repeated with such frequency that
they become more or less automatic. Others, as the laundry work
and the weekly cleaning, might be termed semiskilled work. Cooking,
on the other hand, is highly skilled, as is the care of children. Both
require careful training and considerable experience before the worker
can be regarded as really efficient.
The conditions under which the household employee does her work
are different from those of the industrial worker. As a rule, the
physical surroundings are pleasanter and more attractive; there is
opportunity for better air and light than in many industrial plants,
and the worker is free from the constant noise and hum of machinery
that add to the exhaustion of the industrial worker. The work itseif
is diversified and presents greater possibilities for interest and for
exercising creative faculties than does work of the highly specialized,
repetitive, and monotonous type that results from intensive division
of labor. It is free from the strain of constantly timing processes to
the speed of a machine, for housework can easily be adjusted to the
speed of the worker, since there is considerable flexibility in the time
during the day when each task must be completed.
As far as the specific conditions of work described are concerned,
household employment would appear to be a fairly desirable occupa­
tion, but there is one condition that is sufficiently important in the
• In their study, The Present Use of Work Time of Farm Homemakers, Bui. No. 234 (July 1929), State
College of Washington, p. 29, Inez Arnquist and Evelyn Roberts state that an average of 67 changes of
work were made during the day by the housewife. Though the paid employee may not be responsible for
so great a variety of tasks, this is indicative of the unspecialized character of her work.




1

2

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

eyes of the average worker to counteract all that the others might
contribute to its desirability: That is, that in a large proportion of
households the employee works alone, while in the other occupations
she is one of a group. In other employment she has company in her
work, others around her are doing the same thing she is doing or work
similar to it, and she has an opportunity for the social contacts that
are so necessary to contentment. Even when the household em­
ployee is not at work it is difficult for her to make arrangements to see
her friends. The amount of leisure and the time she will be free are
so uncertain, and the fact that in so many cases she lives in the home
of her employer, a practice found today in almost no other occupation,
add to the difficulty of planning for social life.
Because household employment is a relation between individual
employer and employee, it is unstandardized. The household em­
ployee finds no definite wage scale based on experience, skill, or the
amount of work required. The very basis of her wage is different
from that of the industrial worker. Household service is among
consumers’ goods of the luxury class, while the wage of the industrial
worker is one of the costs of production, which the employer expects
to have returned when the commodity that the worker helped to
produce is sold.
In household employment there is no standard for the length of
the working day nor for the amount of work to be accomplished during
that time. A worker changing from one household to another does
not know whether she will be expected to put in more or less time
than in her former job, nor can she be sure just what free time she
will have to herself or at what specific hour during the day this free
time will come. Under these conditions “overtime” rarely is com­
puted. Even at the present time many workers are expected to per­
form any service that may be required from the time of getting up
in the morning until going to bed at night—“in domestic service it
is the person who is hired, and not, distinctively, the labor of the
person.” 2
The main reason, however, that household employment is considered
on a lower plane than other occupations for the untrained woman is
the social stigma attached to it. Other workers, her employers, and
sometimes her own family make the household worker feel that she
is inferior to everyone else.
Because of the characteristics peculiar to household employment
and the fact that conditions that existed 40 years ago still exist, special
studies must be made if household occupations are to be other than
“the least standardized, the least modernized, the most feudal of all
the work in the modern world.” 3
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

Practically all the early studies of household employment had as
their fundamental purpose to discover and analyze the causes under­
lying the difficulties in household employment. The present study
was undertaken to determine, among other things—
1. The character of the demand for household workers 4 and particu­
larly for full-time workers.
* Domestic Service. In vol. XIV, reports ol tnc Industrial Commission, 1901, p. 759.
s America's Domestic Servant Shortage, by Ethel M. Smith. In Current History, May 1927, p. 218.
* Workers engaged in the group of occupations concerned with the physical care of the house and its mem­
bers and carried on in private homes for a money wage.




INTRODUCTION

3

2. The character of the supply of household workers.
The study was planned to bring out information relative to the
character of the employing group and the factors that are important
in determining the number of workers employed. It was meant to
throw light on employer preferences as to the race and nativity, educa­
tion, training, skill, and personal qualities of the employee, and the
relative need of the employer for assistance at different time periods
during the day and with different household tasks. (For the employer
schedule see p. 59.) It was planned to secure facts relative to the
personnel of the employed group, their education and training, as
well as the kinds of housework in which they were engaged, their
preferences regarding their work, and their attitude toward it. (For
the employee schedule see p. 61.)
Since so large a proportion of the workers engaged in household
employment are women, and since it is in household employment as
a full-time job that most of the problems of the occupation are cen­
tered, the study was planned primarily to secure information relative
to the women who were full-time household workers.
METHOD OF COLLECTING DATA

It was believed that the information desired could best be obtained
through the use of the schedule method. It was planned to present
the problem to groups of employers and employees and to have the
schedules filled out under supervision. With this plan in mind, two
schedules were prepared, one for employers, and one for employees,6
which contained questions relative to the points mentioned. The
date of the study was 1930.
Employee schedules, for the most part, were secured through the
cooperation of the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Urban
League, and Winchell Continuation School, though a number were
secured through employment bureaus and individuals. In the main
they were filled out under supervision by members of householdemployee clubs of the Young Women’s Christian Association, by
household employees enrolled in English classes, by groups of house­
hold employees that were assembled through the Chicago Urban
League, and by groups of girls in Winchell Continuation School who
were employed as mothers’ helpers.
Only a small part of the employer schedules were filled out under
supervision, since it proved a difficult problem to get in touch with
groups of women among whom were many employers of full-time
household workers. Some schedules were filled out through the co­
operation of women’s organizations and individuals, but the majority
were secured by mailing schedules to women known to be employers
of full-time household workers. Information concerning the study
and special instructions for the filling out of the schedules were mailed
with the forms.
Returns were secured from 250 employers and 250 female employees,
and together these furnished data concerning 576 full-time female
employees. Of the employers, from a minimum of 211 to the total
250 answered the various inquiries. Of the employees, from a
minimum of 218 to the total 250 did so.5
5 Copies of these schedules will be found in the appendix, pp. 59 to 62.




4

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

CLASSIFICATION OF FINDINGS

After tabulating and analyzing the data given on the schedules, the
information was classified under the following main heads:
I. The character of the employing group.
II. The character of the employee group.
III. Outstanding difficulties of employer and employee.
SUMMARY: THE EMPLOYING GROUP

A summary of the facts presented in the various sections of the
report will bring out more clearly the present status of household
employment as an occupation for women and girls.
One of the chief characteristics of the Chicago families that employ
full-time household workers is that their yearly income is sufficient
to permit the well-to-do and luxury standards of living. More than
three fifths of the group studied had incomes of over $10,000. The
husbands of these employers of household workers were for the most
part professional men, executives, entrepreneurs, and officials.
About two thirds of the families studied lived in houses rather than
apartments. Their homes ranged in size from 4 rooms and 1 bath
to 28 rooms and 12 baths. About three fourths of the homes had
10 or more rooms (including baths) and 5 percent had 20 or more.
The households employing full-time workers ranged in size from 1
to 8 persons. Four-person households were more frequent than any
other size, but the average for the entire group was 3.8 persons. Just
over seven tenths of the families had 3, 4, or 5 members.
Of the 23 families having 6 to 8 members, none lived in the homes
having 20 or more rooms; 9 of the 12 largest homes housed families
of 3 members or less; a family of 2 lived in the house having 28
rooms and 12 baths; and a family of 5 in the apartment having 4
rooms and 1 bath. Clearly the size of the home had not been decided
merely on the basis of adequate housing.
These households contained neither very many children nor very
young children. Two thirds had no children under 8 years, and in
little more than a third of the households were there two or more
under 16.
A large proportion of the households were old-established ones.
More than half the employers reporting had kept house for 20 years
or more; only 6 had kept house for less than 5 years.
The average number of employees per household was 2.7—1.5 full­
time and 1.1 part-time workers. Regardless of the fact that the size
and composition of the family and the size of the home are of primary
importance in determining the kind and amount of work to be done,
in the present study they appeared to be of slight importance in
determining the number of workers. Income was the important
factor in determining the number of paid assistants in a household.
When one considers that the services of an employee at $15 a week
involve an expenditure of $780 a year, or nearly 16 percent of a $5,000
income, the importance of income in determining the amount of
assistance is not to be wondered at. As the income increased from
less than $5,000 to over $10,000, the average number of workers (men
included) increased from 1.1 to 3.1. It was only when the income was
at least $5,000 that the group averaged one full-time employee supple-




INTRODUCTION

5

men ted regularly by one or more part-time workers; and only when
the income was over $10,000 did it average two full-time workers.
Three fourths of the households had only one full-time employee,
the general worker; 25 percent had cooks, 17 percent second girls,
and 7 percent children’s nurses and chambermaids; while the pro­
portion having such specialized help as ladies’ maid, parlor maid, and
so on, was very slight.
Employers’ need of assistance

Eighty-four percent of the households studied had most need of
assistance with the cooking, or at least as much as for any other branch
of housework. The need of assistance with the daily and weekly
cleaning of the house and with dish washing was the next most keenly
felt.
According to the statements of employers, the need of someone
to answer the bell, receive packages, and so on, was negligible. Studies
have shown, however, that this service is expected, and that in only
a small number of households is the employee entirely free to follow
her own pursuits during the afternoon or evening. She is expected
to be "on call.”
The major responsibility for the washing of dishes and the weekly
cleaning was given over to the employee in practically all the house­
holds. In the great majority of cases the major responsibility for
cooking and serving also was the employee’s, while in comparatively
few homes was she given the major responsibility for tasks requiring
initiative, managerial ability, and a knowledge of scientific principles.
In 50 households responsibility for the laundry work was entirely
the full-time employee’s; in only 4 of these cases was such full-time
worker a laundress. In 84 families the full-time employee had no
responsibility for the laundry work; in another 50, practically all but
special laundry work was done by other than the full-time worker.
From statements of employers it would appear that the extremely
long working day and irregular hours in many homes are unnecessary.
According to at least half of the employers’ schedules, a working day
of about 10 hours on week days, including time for meals, and 6
hours on Sunday, seems a possibility.
Type of worker preferred

Employers preferred the foreign-born white worker, with the Negro
second in preference. They also preferred the resident full-time
employee; about three fourths expressed this preference, and about
the same proportion actually employed resident workers.
“Honesty”, “dependableness”, “willingness”, “good nature”, “kind­
ness to children”, and “the ability to follow directions” were personality
traits desired by the majority of employers in their household workers.
“Initiative” and “knows her place” were considered of comparatively
little importance. “Initiative” was the trait least commonly found.
SUMMARY: THE HOUSEHOLD WORKERS
Proportions in the various branches of housework

As so large a proportion of the employing group had only general
workers, it is not surprising to find that two thirds (382) of the 576
full-time women employees for whom information on occupation was




6

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

available were engaged in general housework. Seventy-six were
cooks; 50 were second girls; and the remainder included 26 nurse­
maids, 16 chambermaids, and very small numbers (1 to 6) in other
occupations.
Race and nativity

From the reports of employers their general preference was for
the foreign-born white worker. Of the 573 employees from both
employer and employee schedules, 42 percent were foreign-born
white, 30 percent were Negro, and 28 percent were native white.
Age

The employers expressed a preference for the worker over 25 years
of age because of her greater permanence and dependability. More
than half (52.7 percent) of the employees whose age was reported
were 25 to 44 years, and 16 percent were 45 years and over. Thus
only 31 percent were under 25 years. The median age for the entire
group was 29; for white employees it was 26 and for Negroes it was 35.
The age distribution of general workers was wider than that of any
other group. Nearly two fifths (37.7 percent) were under 25 and one
seventh (13.3 percent) were 45 and over. All but one of the entire
group of workers under 18 were general houseworkers. As a group,
cooks were older than general house servants. Only 3 of the 71 re­
ported for age were under 25, while over one fourth were 45 years or
more.
Marital status

Of the 250 full-time employees whose marital status was learned,
nearly three fourths (73.6 percent) were single. The races differed
greatly in this: 96 percent of the white employees, in contrast to only
34 percent of the Negroes, were single. The method of securing
schedules may have been largely responsible for this high figure
among white, women, since in all probability married women would
be found less frequently than single women in clubs, English classes,
and the continuation school.
Education and training

In general, the education of the household employees had been
meager. Of the 246 reporting amount of schooling, 166 (67.5 percent)
had completed no grade higher than the eighth. The figures available
show the following for white and Negro employees: Of 159 white
employees, 4 (less than 3 percent) had completed only the fifth grade
or some grade below the fifth, 73 (45.9 percent) had completed the
eighth grade, and 47 (29.6 percent) had continued in school beyond
the eighth grade; 6 of these had had some college work and 5 special
training. Of 87 Negro employees, 17 (19.5 percent) had completed
only the fifth grade or some grade below the fifth, 22 (25.3 percent)
had completed the eighth grade, and, although 33 (37.9 percent) had
gone above the eighth grade, none had had college work and only 1
special training.
Of the 246 employees reporting on this, over one fourth, whether
white or Negro, had attended special classes. A very much larger
proportion, 83 percent, had secured all or a part of their training in
their own homes, and 61 percent had secured all or a part of their
training in the homes in wliich they had worked. Of the group as a




INTRODUCTION

7

whole, 49 percent considered the training received in their own homes,
and 42 percent considered that received in the homes in which they
worked of the most value.
Efficiency of the workers

Of 211 employers reporting, all but 14 stated that they found it
necessary to train new employees in all or a part of their duties.
Probably because of the difference in standards, not only of employer
and employee but of the various households of the employing group,
one sixth of the employers reported that employees needed training
in “my way of doing things.” Cooking, serving, and cleaning were
the branches of housework in which it was most frequently necessary
to give training. Training in thoroughness and order of cleaning was
more often necessary than training in methods of cleaning.
If so large a proportion of housewives (93 percent) found it necessary
to train employees in all or a part of their tasks, it is not surprising
that almost one half indicated that one of their outstanding problems
had been to secure efficient workers. However, only one fourth of the
present employees of these housewives were reported as having meager
training and experience when engaged, and for 30 percent the training
and experience were reported as superior. At the time the schedules
were filled out, about seven tenths of the employees were giving good
service and only a very small part were giving poor service. e
It seems evident from these conflicting statements that house­
wives must interview large numbers of prospective employees before
finding one with adequate qualifications, which according to their own
statements seven tenths are successful in doing; or that the complaint
of inefficiency is based on knowledge or impression of the general
market supply rather than on actual experience with workers in their
employ.
Wages

The wages that these household employees received varied with
race, domicile status, kind of work done, and age. In general, wages
were lower for Negro employees than for white employees, for non­
resident than for resident workers, for general work than for any other
occupation. Of the resident white employees, more received $20 and
under $25 a week than any other wage, while the largest proportion
of Negro workers received $15 and under $20. About seven tenths of
the resident white employees doing general housework, in contrast to
only about one tenth of the cooks, received less than $20. More than
seven tenths of the second girls, nearly three fourths of the chamber­
maids, and about one half of the children’s nurses received at least $20.
Wages showed a tendency to increase with the age of the worker.
All resident workers under 18 years of age received less than $15 a
week; over four fifths of those from 18 to 24 years received less than
$20; well over one half of those who were 25 to 44 received $20 or more;
and almost three fifths of those who were 45 or more received at
least $20.
The stability of household workers

In general, other studies of household employment have indicated
that women do not remain long in any one household. As opposed to
this, almost half of the 555 employees reported in the Chicago study




8

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

had been with their present employers from 1 to 5 years and 15 percent
for 5 years or more.
..
Preference of the worker as to domicile status

One of the suggestions made repeatedly in the past as a remedy for
certain conditions existing in household employment is to encourage
the worker to live outside the home of the employer. Of 156 white
employees in Chicago who reported their preference as to this, 82
percent preferred living in, whereas 55 percent of the 89 Negroes
who answered the question preferred living out. This difference can
be accounted for by the fact that a large proportion of the Negroes
were or had been married and presumably had homes, while a large
percentage of the white employees were foreign born, with whom
living in the home of the employer was customary. For others the
preference was determined by purely economic rather than social
considerations.
Personality traits desired in employer

Of the personality traits listed for checking, “fairness” was the one
desired by the greatest number of employees in the person for whom
they worked, and this was the trait reported by the greatest number
as seldom found. “Kindness”, “punctuality”, and “good nature”
also were much desired in employers. “Patience” and “generosity”
were the traits mentioned the least frequently.
OUTSTANDING DIFFICULTIES OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE

Problems reported most frequently by employers had to do with
the lack of training and efficiency on the part of the employee; the
attitude of the employee toward her work, her associates, and her
employer; the difficulty in securing employees with desirable per­
sonality traits; the cost of service and turnover; and the inadequacy
of records, references, and supply of workers available at employment
bureaus. Those reported least frequently related to the health and
personal cleanliness of the worker and to the planning of the working
day so that the household was well provided for and the worker had
sufficient time for recreation.
Problems reported by employees centered around difficulties in
securing work; hours; the amount and character of the work demanded;
the treatment received from employers; the attitude of others toward
them and their work; and living conditions.




Part I. CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP
A number of questions arise as to the character of the employing
group in the present study: Who represent the demand for house­
hold labor? What is their income? Are their homes large or small?
Have they typically large or small families? How many have
young children and how many have none at all?
FAMILY STATUS
The income

Analysis of the schedules shows that of the 233 employers of
full-time workers who reported in regard to income, about 97 percent
(all but 8) had annual incomes of at least $5,000. More than three
fifths had incomes of over $10,000.
There is always the possibility of more than one income recipient
in a household, but the Chicago schedules show that in only 15 of
the 237 households employing full-time workers was the wife or
daughter who had charge of the home gainfully employed. The
schedules furnish no specific information regarding sons and daughters
who contributed to the family income, but since in about 60 percent
of the families all the children were under 16, at least in this group
there probably was no contribution. About two fifths of the hus­
bands of these employers of household workers were professional
men; the remainder were railroad and corporation executives, owners
and managers of businesses such as manufacturers, wholesalers,
retailers, importers, bankers, brokers, real-estate men, and insurance
men. It would seem probable, therefore, that in all but the 15
households where the wife or daughter was gainfully employed the
husband was the only income recipient.
Table 1.-—Income

of employers
Employers reporting

Yearly income
Number

Percent

Total................................................

233

100.0

$5,000 to $10,000____________ _
Over $10,000_______________________

8
80
145

3.4
34.3
62.2

Since the incomes of this group were so high, a very large propor­
tion of the households were able to enjoy what is commonly called
the luxury or liberal standard of living. This is the level of living
that permits of expenditure for goods and services that are not
necessaries and may be termed “luxuries.” It permits of delicacies
for the table, more frequent dining out, more elaborate entertaining,
a greater variety in the wardrobe as well as better quality, larger and
more expensive homes that include many rooms in addition to the
1690°—33----- 3




9

10

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

usual dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchen, greater
advantages of education and travel, and so on. The manner of
living becomes highly complicated and a certain amount of form or
ceremony becomes a part of the routine of the home. In order that
this form and ceremony may be properly carried out, the full-time
household employee becomes a definite part of this standard.
About one third of the households (34.3 percent) enjoyed what has
been called the well-to-do standard of living, in which they were
able to indulge, to a moderate degree, in many of the luxuries as
well as the comforts and necessaries enjoyed by people of higher
incomes. In fact, practically all these families who employed full­
time household workers belonged to a specially privileged class because
of the incomes they received.
Size of home

Since one of the things that income makes possible is a larger and
more expensive home, it is interesting to know something of the
size of the homes in which the employing group lived, particularly as
size is so important a factor in determining the amount of work to
be done in the home. It is also interesting to know whether the
homes are separate houses or apartments, since this too affects the
amount of work to be done.
The schedules show that the homes ranged in size from one with
4 rooms and 1 bath to one with 28 rooms and 12 baths. As the
number of baths for a house of a given size varied from 1 to 4, it
seems desirable to include them in the total number of rooms repre­
senting the size of the house. On this basis the range in size was
from 5 to 40 rooms.
Of the 233 employers giving information regarding the size of the
home, more than seven tenths lived in homes having 10 or more
rooms. Five percent lived in homes having 20 or more rooms.
Table 2.—Size of home
Employers reporting
Number of rooms 1
Number
Total

................. .........................

10 to 19....... ...................... ......................
20 and over________ _________

Percent

233

100.0

65
156
12

27.9
67.0
5.2

i Includes bathrooms, as the number varied from 1 to 4 for a house of a given size.

From table 3 it is clear that seven tenths of the families living in
homes of from 10 to 19 rooms had incomes of more than $10,000,
and all but one of those in homes with 20 rooms and over were in
this income group. Almost two thirds lived in houses rather than
apartments.
The question then arises: Is the large home necessary because of
the size of the family or is it an expression of the standard of living
that the family desires to maintain?




11

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

Size of family

The number of persons that make up a household is perhaps even
more important than the mere size of the home in determining the
amount of work to he done.
The smallest groups were households of 1 person and the largest
were households of 8. Four-person households were the most numer­
ous, and the average for the entire group was 3.8 persons.
About seven tenths of the families of the employers who answered
this question had 3, 4, or 5 members; less than one fifth had 1 or 2
members, and only one tenth had 6 to 8. Seventeen of the largest
families were in the highest income group.
In examining the relation between size of family and size of home,
it is apparent that of the 23 families having 6 to 8 members none
lived in the largest homes—those having 20 or more rooms—and only
2 lived in homes having less than 10 rooms; about half lived in
8-room to 12-room homes, and half in homes having from 13 to 19
rooms.
The 12 largest homes housed families of from 1 to 5 members, 9
of them housing families of 3 or less. A family of 5 was housed in
the 4-room and 1-bath home, and a family of 2 lived in the home
with 28 rooms and 12 baths.
Table 3.—Size of home, size of family, and age of children, of employers reporting

income
Number of employers

Yearly Income

Total
report­
ing
in­
come

Total
$5,000 to $10,000...........Over $10,000...................

Size of home

Size of family 1

Less
Less
20
than 10 to rooms than 3 3 to 5
19
per­
and
10
per­
rooms rooms over
sons sons

233

65

156

8
80
145

5
38
22

3
41
112

12

43

167

1
11

1
12
30

7
62
98

Children

No
Both chil­
All
6 to 8 under All 8 under dren
to 15 8 and under
per­
8
sons years years 8 to 15
16
years years
23

44

59

33

97

6
17

1
24
19

3
17
39

1
8
24

31
63

1 Unrelated to income, the size of the family was as follows: One person, 6; two, 38; three, 56; four, 67;
five, 46; six, 18; and seven or eight, 5, a total of 236. Employees not included.

Though the size of the family is, no doubt, a contributing factor,
it is apparent that many other things influence the size of the home
in which the group lives. A family of 2 or 3 persons would hardly
choose a home having 20 rooms or more merely to secure adequate
housing. The desire to maintain a given standard of living, or the
desire for prestige which they believe a large home brings, or even a
desire for display, or “conspicuous consumption”, as Veblen called
it, undoubtedly influences their choice.
Number and age of children

The presence of very young children or of several children of differ­
ent ages in a household tends to complicate the problems of the
homemaker and adds to the amount and kind of work to be done.




12

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Table 4 shows that about two fifths of the 233 households for which
information regarding number of children was secured had no such
complicating problems, since they had no members under 16 years of
age. In about one fifth of the households there probably were few
problems due to the presence of children, since there was only one
child under 16. In more than one third of the households such
problems might be at a maximum, as these contained two or more
children.
About one third of the households would have the problems con­
nected with young children, as they had children under 8 years of
age. Fourteen percent would have the problems of several children
of varying ages, as they had children under 8 and from 8 to 15 years.
One fourth of the households would have fewer problems due to age
than the other two groups, as in these all the children were from 8
to 15.
Table 4.—Number and age of children in homes having full-time household employees
[233 employers reporting]

Number and age of children

Households having chil­
dren of specified num­
ber and age
Number

Percent

Total-............................................................................. .......................... ...................
1

233

100.0

............................................... .............. .......................................................... .

51
18
33
85
26
26
33
97

21.9
7.7
14.2
36.5
11.2
11.2
14.2
41.6

Number of invalids and aged

In only a very small proportion of the households were there either
invalids or aged persons. In 3 there were chronic invalids, 1 of whom
was away from home most of the time, and in 7 there were aged
persons, 1 in each of 6 households and 2 in the seventh. So few
households of this group had the special problems that the presence
of invalids or aged in the home entail as to make them practically
negligible.
Housekeeping experience of the employer

More than one half of the employers reporting housekeeping
experience and income had kept house for 20 years or more, well
below one half had kept house for 5 to 19 years, and only 6 women
had kept house for less than 5 years. These results might be due to
greater interest in the problem of household employment on the part
of the older woman. They probably indicate, however, that a
number of years of housekeeping experience had been gained during
the period required for the professional man, entrepreneur, official,
or executive to reach the point where the income was sufficient to
permit the employment of a full-time household worker.
The relation between the income and the number of years of house­
keeping experience of the employer would tend to substantiate the




13

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

latter view. A larger proportion of the employers with incomes of
over $10,000 than of employers with smaller incomes had had as much
as 20 years of housekeeping experience.
Table 5.—Housekeeping experience of employers, by income
Total reporting
Yearly income

Employers in each income group having housekeeping
experience of—
Less than 5 years

Num­
ber

5 to 19 years

20 years and over

Percent
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent

Total .................................

226

Less than $5,000...... ..................
$5,000 to $10,000........................
Over $10,000________ _______

8
80
138

100.0
100.0
100.0

6
5
1

2.7
6.3
.7

100

44.2

120

53.1

35
CO

(i)
43.8
43.5

40
77

50.0
55.8

1 Percent not computed; base less than 50.

Another characteristic, then, of the employing group is that the
majority had had considerable experience in housekeeping, probably
gained during the time necessary for the husband to gain the experi­
ence and efficiency requisite to command an income sufficient to
permit of paid assistance in the home.
Summary

The employing group was comprised largely of families in which the
husbands were chiefly professional men, officials, executives, and
entrepreneurs whose incomes were sufficient to permit well-to-do and
liberal standards of living. The great majority (72.1-percent) lived
in homes having 10 or more rooms and about 5 percent lived in homes
having 20 or more rooms.
The households in this group were for the most part not those of
young married people but of families that had been established for 5
years or much longer, as in so large a proportion (97 percent) the wives
had had at least 5 years of household experience and more than one
half had had 20 or more years of such experience. The fact that in 40
percent of the families there were children from 8 to 15 years old and
in about 40 percent there were no children under 16 also indicates that
the majority of the households were not newly established.
These households were not what might be termed large, as seven
tenths had only four members or less; nor had a very large percentage
of them the problem of very young children or of many children, as
almost two thirds of the families had either no children under 16 or
only one such child. So small a proportion as to be almost negligible
had chronic invalids or aged persons requiring special care.
In general, the households of the employing group were compara­
tively small, with few special problems due to the presence of very
young children, many children, invalids, or aged. They had been
established some time, were housed in comparatively large homes, and
had sufficient income to maintain a well-to-do or liberal standard of
living.




14

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

THE NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES PER FAMILY

With this picture of the employing group in mind, the next questions
are: “How many workers do they employ?” and, “What is the rela­
tionship between the number of workers and the size of the house, the
size and composition of the family, and the amount of the income?”
The 230 householders who reported income and number of full-time
and part-time employees had a total of 618 workers. Of these, 356
(57.6 percent) were full-time workers and 262 (42.4 percent) were
regularly employed part-time workers. The average number of full­
time workers per household was 1.5, of part-time workers 1.1, and of
full-time and part-time 2.7.
Table 6.—Total number and average number of household workers employed by

families in each income group
Number of employees 1

Income group

Total
employ­
ers re­
Full
porttime
tag
only

Full time and
part time

Full
time

Part
time

Total

Full
time

Average per employer

Full
time
and
part
time

Full
time

Part
time

Full
time
and
part
time

Total-............................

230

80

276

262

356

618

1.6

1.1

2.7

Less then $5,000 ................
$5,000 to $10,000_____ ____
Over $10,000_______ _______

8
78
144

7
23
50

1
62
213

1
76
185

8
85
263

9
161
448

1.0
1.1
1.8

0.1
1.0
1.3

1.1
2.1
3.1

i Both men and women.

FACTORS DETERMINING THE NUMBER OF WORKERS

Income

An analysis of table 6 shows that income is a very important factor
in determining the number of household workers employed. As the
income increases from less than $5,000 a year to over $10,000, the
average number of full-time workers increases from 1 to 1.8; the aver­
age number of part-time 6 workers increases from 0.1 to 1.3; and the
average number of total workers increases from 1.1 to 3.1.
It is only when the income is $5,000 or over that the group averages
one full-time employee regularly supplemented by one or more part­
time workers. It is only when the income is over $10,000 that it
averages two or more full-time workers.
The findings of the present study show that the proportion of
households employing only one full-time worker decreases greatly as
the income increases. Seven of the 8 employers with incomes of less
than $5,000 had only one full-time worker, as compared with not quite
three tenths of those with incomes of $5,000 to $10,000 and exactly
one ninth of those with incomes of over $10,000. The percentage of
households employing two or more workers, either full time only or
both full time and part time, increases greatly as the income increases.
Only 1 of the 8 with incomes of less than $5,000 had 2 employees, while
8 Those workers who come in for a few hours at a time to supplement the work of the regularly employed
full-time workers.




15

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

about nine tenths of those with incomes of over $10,000 had at least 2.
In the income group over $10,000, more than twice as many employers
(90) had 3 or more workers as had 2 workers (38).
Table 7.—Number of employers having full-time workers only and both full-time

and part-time workers, by income
Number of employers having—

Income group

Full-time workers only Full-time and part-time
workers

Total

1

3 and
over

2

Total.________ ______________

230

46

Less than $5,000. ... ....................................
$5,000 to $10.000.._____ _______
Over $10,000___________

8
78
144

7
23
16

4

2

4 and
over

3

8

59

46

8

4

67
1
32
34

18
41

6
41

Size of the family

Just over seven tenths of the families for which data regarding
size were available had from 3 to 5 members. Slightly under one
fifth had less than 3 and one tenth had 6 or more, the largest having 8.
The families with less than 3 members had an average of 3 em­
ployees, both full time and part time, which was somewhat higher
than for the larger families. The average number of full-time em­
ployees also was slightly higher for families of less than 3 members
than for either of the other groups. Families of 6 to 8 averaged
slightly more part-time help than did the others. It would seem that
the size of the family was of little consequence in determining the
number of household workers employed.
Table 3 (page 11) shows that there are no large families—that is,
families of six or more—in the lowest income group, while 8 percent
of the families with an income of $5,000 to $10,000, and 12 percent of
those in the highest income group, are of this size. The larger the
family the larger the expenditure necessary to provide those things
considered essential to maintain a given standard of living. It is
apparent, therefore, that the effect of a large family is that it tends to
delay the employment of the paid worker until the income has
increased sufficiently to more than cover expenditures for these
essentials.
Table 8.—Number

of employees per family, by size of family
Number of employees 1

Size of employer’s family

Families reporting
Full time
Number Percent

Total

Full time and
part time

Part time

Average

Total

Average

Total

Average

Total...............................

233

100.0

360

1.5

266

1.1

626

2.7

Less than 3_______ ____ ____
3 to 5________ ______ _______
6 to 8

44
166
23

18.9
71.2
9.9

79
243
38

1.8
1.5
1.7

53
184
29

1.2
1.1
1.3

132
427
67

3. 0
2.6
2.9

> Both men and women.




16

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Number and age of the children

Of the 233 households reported, 51 had 1 child under 16 years, 85
had 2 or more, and 97 had none.
The families with no children under 16 averaged 2.9 employees
per family, slightly the highest of all groups. Families having two or
more children had an average of 2.8 employees regardless of whether
the children were all under 8, all 8 to 15, or some one and some the
other. Families having only one child had an average of 2.2
employees.
The families with no children under 16 averaged 1.7 full-time work­
ers, which was the highest in this class, but those with two or more
children of 8 to 15 also averaged 1.7. Those whose 2 or more children
were under 8 and 8 to 15 had slightly less full-time assistance, an
average of 1.6 workers. Households with 2 or more children, all
under 8, had still less full-time assistance (1.4 workers), though
presumably there would be greater need for help in these homes than
in those where none of the children were less than 8. Households
in which there was only one child averaged the least full-time assist­
ance, 1.3 workers.
Table 9.—Number of employees per family, by number and age of children in the

household
Number of employees 1
Number and age of children

Total
house­
holds
reporting

Full time
Total

Total...................................................... All under 8 years:
One____-...................................................
Two and over.............................................
All 8 to 15 years:
One---------- ------------------ ---------------Two and over--------------- --------------Both under 8 and 8 to 15 years:
Two and over------------------ --------------No children under 16-------- ----------------

Average

Part
time

Full time and part
time
Total

Average

233

360

1.5

266

626

2.7

18
26

23
36

1.3
1.4

17
36

40
72

2.2
2.8

33
26

43
44

1.3
1.7

29
28

72
72

2.2
2.8

33
97

53
161

1.6
1.7

40
116

93
277

2.8
2.9

i Both men and women.

Since families with no children had more household assistance than
had those with children, it is evident that the number of children is
not the primary factor in determining the amount of paid assistance.
However, since households in which there were two or more children
had not only more total employees, both full time and part time, but
more full-time employees than had households with only one child, it
would seem that the number of children is a contributing factor in
determining the amount of household assistance to be employed.
Thus the relation between the age of the children in a household
and the number of full-time workers employed is practically the
opposite of what would be expected from the standpoint of the rela­
tive amount of work involved in the care of young children and of
older children. Households in which there were two or more chil­
dren from 8 to 15 had more full-time assistance than households in
which there were two or more under 8 and also more than house­
holds in which the two or more were under 8 and from 8 to 15, though
where the children are younger there might be expected a need for
more help rather than less. However, since these households are




17

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

largely those of professional men, executives, officials, and entre­
preneurs whose incomes increase with experience, it is probable that
not until the children are 8 years old or more has the income increased
sufficiently to permit employing full-time workers. The results shown
in table 3 tend to support this conclusion. Those families with in­
comes of $5,000 to $10,000 have a higher proportion of children
under 8 and a lower proportion of children from 8 to 15 than those
with incomes of over $10,000. This fact, together with the fact that
there is more full-time household service in the families whose chil­
dren are 8 years and over, tends to strengthen the conclusion that
income is a tremendously important factor in determining the num­
ber of paid workers employed.
Size of the home

Of the 230 houses and apartments for which there were data re­
garding number of rooms and number of full-time and part-time em­
ployees, 68 percent had from 10 to 19 rooms, 27 percent had less than
10 rooms, and 5 percent had 20 rooms or more.
Table 10.—Number of employees per family, by size of home
Number of employees i
Number of rooms 1

Total
homes
reported

Full time
Total

Total____________ ____
Less than 10. _ ____ _______
10 to 19
20 and over._____ ___________

Full time and part
time

Part time

Average

Total

Average

Total

Average

230

355

1.6

264

l.l

619

2.7

62
156
12

66
244
45

1.1
1.6
3.8

46
192
26

.7
1.2
2.2

112
436
71

6.9

‘ Includes bathrooms, as the number varied from 1 to 4 for a home of a given size.
* Both men and women.

The size of the home is a tremendously important factor as far as
the amount of work involved in its care is concerned. Each extra
room adds to the amount of work to be done and to the time necessary
for doing it, so that it is reasonable to find more household assistance
in a very large home than in a comparatively small one. The data
collected in Chicago show this to be the condition. The homes hav­
ing 20 or more rooms had an average of 5.9 workers, both full time
and part time, which was 4.1 more workers than the average num­
ber employed in homes having less than 10 rooms and 3.1 more
workers than the average number employed in homes of from 10 to
19 rooms.
However, other things being equal, the larger the home the larger
the income necessary to secure it as well as to maintain it. Table 3
(page 11) shows that there is a direct relationship between the size
of the income and the size of the home. In the lowest income group,
5 of the 8 households reporting had homes with less than 10 rooms
and none had homes with 20 rooms and over. In the next income
group, slightly more than half (41 out of 80) had homes with from
10 to 19 rooms and one family had a home with 20 or more rooms.
In the highest income group over three fourths had homes of from 10
to 19 rooms and about 8 percent had homes of at least 20 rooms.




18

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Since the size of the home has a tendency to increase as the income
increases and since the number of household workers increases as the
home increases in size, it is evident that income is the controlling
factor in determining both the size of the home in which the family
lives and the number of workers employed to carry on the routine
housework involved.
Conclusions

The general conclusions that may be stated regarding the impor­
tance of the foregoing factors in determining the number of workers
employed in a given household are as follows:
1. The size of the income is the all-important factor.
2. The size of the home is of secondary importance, since it is
dependent upon the income.
3. The size of the family and the number and age of the chil­
dren in the family, all of which are important in determining the
amount of work necessary in a given household, are of little im­
portance in determining the number of household workers em­
ployed; rather, they are factors that prevent many from having
the surplus necessary to employ paid workers.
THE TYPES OF WORK FOR WHICH ASSISTANCE IS
EMPLOYED

The next interest is in knowing what workers these employers
engage, whether they prefer workers of a certain age and race, and
whether they have more need for assistance in some kinds of house­
work than in others and at certain times of the day than at others.
For the person who is planning to do housework and for those who
are planning courses for the training of household workers, it is im­
portant to know the kinds of work for which assistance is employed
and the relative need of the employer for assistance in the different
branches of housework.
FULL-TIME WOMEN WORKERS

Of the 326 full-time women workers employed in these househol ds
well over one half (54 percent) were general workers, 18 percent were
cooks, and 12 percent were second girls; 5 percent were children’s
nurses, 5 percent were chambermaids, and 6 percent were engaged in
eight other kinds of work.
Table 11.—Distribution of full-time women workers according to branch of household

employment
Employees
Branch of employment
Number
Total.............. ...........

Chambermaid____ _____ __________




Percent

326

100.0

177
58
40
16
16
4
3
4
2
2
2
1
1

54. 3
12. 3
4.9
4.9
1. 2
1.2
.6
.3
.3

CHARACTER OP THE EMPLOYING GROUP

19

A comparison of these results with those of three earlier studies
shows that, though more than half of the employees in each study
were general workers, with cooks and second girls next in importance,
there appears a greater tendency toward the employment of workers
for special branches of household work in Chicago at the present
time than in the studies in other localities at earlier times.
An analysis of the 237 employers’ schedules from which data on
this point were available shows that the greatest need of employers
was for the general worker. Three fourths of the employers had
such a worker. The next greatest need was for cooks and second
girls, but the need was much less, for only 25 percent of the house­
holds employed cooks and only 17 percent had second girls. The
need for children’s nurses and chambermaids was next, but only 16
households (6.8 percent) had such employees. The proportion of
households having such specialized full-time assistance as that of
“ladies’ maid”, “kitchenmaid”, “parlormaid”, and so on, was very
slight.
COMPARATIVE NEEDS OF THE EMPLOYER FOR ASSISTANCE IN THE
VARIOUS BRANCHES OF HOUSEWORK

If the occupations of household employment are to be improved
through the training of the employee, as is repeatedly suggested, it
is important to know the specific kinds of assistance of which the
employer has the greatest need, in order that these branches may be
given sufficient emphasis in the training course. It is also important
to know the degree of responsibility that the employee must assume,
so that training for this may be included if necessary.
The tasks ordinarily performed by the paid worker may be divided
into five main groups:
.
.
1. Those centering around meals: cooking, serving, washing
dishes.
2. Those centering around the care of the home: daily care,
weekly c £ti*e.
3. Those having to do with the care of household textiles and
clothing: washing, ironing, mending.
4. Those having to do with the care of children; daily care,
occasional care during afternoon or evening.
5. Miscellaneous: answering the telephone and doorbell,
receiving packages, and so on.
Food preparation, serving, washing dishes

Of the 243 employers who checked their relative need of assistance
in the various branches of housework, 203 (84 percent) had a maxi­
mum need, or one as great as any, of assistance in the preparation
of food, only 6 having no need of this. A larger number of employers
felt the need of having this part of their work done for them than felt
the need of assistance in any other work of the home, and except for
the daily care of the home and the washing of the dishes fewer em­
ployers felt no need of it.




20
Table

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

12.—Branch of housework in which the employer had the greatest and the least
need of assistance
[Based on reports of 243 employers]
Number of employers having—
Maximum
need or as
much as in
any other
branch

Minimum
need or as
little as in
any other
branch

203
194
190
189
184
182
172
68
36
31
26
17

Branch of housework

10
7
9
8
7
4
22
67
12
13
30
44

No
need

6
5
6
15
37
48
9
94
173
183
156
165

Washing dishes ranked third from the standpoint of maximum need
on the part of employers, and serving ranked seventh. In many
families in which there is only one full-time worker, the members of
the family take the responsibility for serving, but table 14 shows
that in 231 cases the employee had the major responsibility.
The paid employee had practically the entire responsibility for dish
washing. In only 3 out of 241 households had she little or no responsi­
bility for it, and in 2 of these 3 the employee was a practical nurse.
The major responsibility for the preparation of meals was not so
completely given over to the employee, though it was hers in 215
out of 241 households. In seven households the responsibility was
shared by employer and employee.
Daily and weekly care of the home

The daily care of the home was second from the standpoint of
maximum need, 194 out of 243 employers having such need of it and
only 5 having no need of it. Weekly cleaning was fourth from the
standpoint of maximum need, though 15 employers felt no need of
help in this. Since a number of the households reporting no need
of assistance in weekly cleaning had two or more employees, this lack
of need may be explained by the fact that the daily care of the house
was so thorough as to make special weekly cleaning unnecessary.
The major responsibility for the weekly cleaning was given over
almost entirely to the employee, just as was dishwashing. In only 2
out of 240 households did the employer assume it, and in 1 it was
shared by the employer and employee. Members of the family
assumed the major responsibility for the daily care of the house much
more frequently than they did for the weekly cleaning, particularly
for the daily care of the bedrooms; of 239 employers, 76 assumed
the major responsibility for bedrooms. However, a much smaller
number, only 15, assumed the responsibility for the daily care of the
living rooms.




21

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

Washing, ironing, mending

From the standpoint of maximum need to the employer, washing
and ironing ranked sixth and fifth, respectively.
In 50 of the households reporting, all the laundry work was done
by a full-time employee. In only four of these cases was such full­
time employee a laundress. In 84 households (37.3 percent) the
full-time employees had no responsibility for the laundry work, but
in many other households these employees were expected to do part
or all of the ironing. In 59 of the households they did special launder­
ing, such as the finer table linens, laces, the colored and finer clothes
of the children, silk underwear, and hose. In 29 they did part of the
ironing, and in 12 all the ironing.
Table 13.—Responsibility of full-time women employees for laundry work

Amount of laundry work

Households in which
full-time
employee
was responsible for
specified amounts
Number

Percent

225

All________________ ____ _________________________________________

84
50
25

Special laundering and all of ironing............................................ ............ ........................
Special laundering and part of ironing___________ _________
_______ ____

5
4

2.2
1.8

1 4 of these were full-time laundresses.

Of these 225 households, 135 employed part-time workers for the
laundry work; in 130 cases such workers did both washing and ironing,
or most of the ironing, and in 5 they did washing only. In 40 house­
holds the laundry was sent out; in 7 of these only the washing was
done outside.
The character and amount of work demanded of the household
employee is the cause of much dissatisfaction on the part of the
worker. About one eighth of the 218 employees answering the
question regarding changes desired in the occupation to make it more
desirable wanted to “take out the laundry work.” They felt that
the amount of work necessary to be done during the week was suffi­
cient without the additional burden of the laundry work. The
Negro workers stated in a number of cases that they did not mind
doing the washing if they had not so many other things to do at the
same time.
As a rule, the employer assumed the major responsibility for the
mending. This was the case in 185 (78 percent) of the 237 house­
holds reporting. Only 7 percent had maximum need of assistance
with the mending, while 93 percent had either no need of assistance
or as little need of it as in any other branch of the work. Only 3
percent of the part-time workers were employed for mending and
sewing.




22

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Care of children

As more than two fifths of the employers had no children under 16
years of age, necessarily a very large proportion (80 percent) reported
no need of daily care of children. Even in those families where there
were children under 16, employers had greater need of someone to stay
with the children occasionally during the afternoon than of their daily
care. Only 3 percent of all part-time workers were employed for the
care of children.
Answering bell, receiving packages, and so forth

Household employees have complained a great deal in the past, and
they still continue to complain, that they are almost never free from
duty; even during the afternoon when they presumably are resting
and in the evening after their work is finished, they are expected to
answer the doorbell and telephone and to be on hand to receive
parcels. Either this demand is decreasing or it is an unconscious
demand on the part of the employer, as only 68 of the employers
answering this question had a maximum need of this service, or as
great a need as in any other branch of household work, while 151
stated that they either had no need of it or as little need as in any
other branch.
Results of a study begun by the Young Women’s Christian Asso­
ciation in 1927 show that even when girls have what is called “free
time ” only a few are entirely free. Of 94 girls who had time off in the
afternoon, 66 were on call, only 28 being entirely free.7
From the employers’ statements of their need of this service of
answering bells, and so forth, it is apparent that the majority con­
sidered it of little importance. However, judging from the experience
of the girls themselves, the majority of employers expected it.
Employee responsibility

The full-time household employee assumed the major responsibility,
in at least a part of the households, for all the tasks commonly con­
nected with providing for the physical comfort of the family. In
the main, however, she had the major responsibility for those tasks
involving more physical exertion than mental effort, for those that
are the most menial and lowly. In comparatively few homes, accord­
ing to the reports of the employers, had she the major responsibility
for those tasks requiring initiative, managerial ability, and a knowl­
edge of scientific principles. In only 7 homes had she the major
responsibility for planning the meals and in only 11 for buying the
food. A reason for this may be found in the statement of one employer
who said, “Ordinarily I attend to planning meals and purchasing
food; at present my cook is able and likes to do it.” Another said,
“My cook is helpful in suggesting ways to use left-overs.” It would
seem, then, that where there is ability and willingness on the part of
the worker, the responsibility for planning meals and buying food is
given over to the employee or shared with her.
In only 22 households reporting on the subject had the employee
the major responsibility for the efficient arrangement of the equip* Chicago Young Women’s Christian Association, Bulletin of News Notes, Apr. 1, 1929.




23

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

merit with which she worked, in 24 for selecting working tools, and
in 36 for determining the need of new working tools; however, she
shared the responsibility with the employer in 18, 30, and 49 house­
holds, respectively. In regard to the last two, several employers
indicated that they had encouraged the employee to take the respon­
sibility, but with little success, as the employee did not seem suf­
ficiently interested to do so.
Table

14.—Number of households in which full-time women employees had major
responsibility in selected household tasks
[Data from employer schedules]
Number of households in which em­
ployee had—
House­
holds re­
porting

Household tasks

Weekly cleaning____ _____ _______ ____
Daily care of living rooms
Preparing meals________
Daily care of bedrooms_____ ______________ ____
Mending_________________ ____ _____ _ .
Determining need for working tools _ _ _
Selecting working tools.. _____ __________ ______
Arrangement of working equipment-......................... __
Purchasing food_________ ________________________
Planning meals________ ________ ...

Little or no
Respon­
responsi­
Major re­
sibility
sponsi­ shared with bility (em­
ployer major
bility
employer
responsi­
bility)

241
240
240
237
241
239
237
232
236
219
240
241

238
237
231
219
215
145
40
36
24
22
11
7

1

2

3
7
18
12
49
30
18
9
16

16
19
76
185
147
182
179
220
218

PART-TIME WORKERS

The statements of employers regarding the number of part-time
workers employed and the kind of work for which they engaged them
show a much greater need of part-time help for laundry work and
cleaning than for any other kind of work, as more than two thirds of
the part-time workers employed were engaged to do these types of
work.
The next greatest demand for part-time service was on the part of
those employers who lived hi individual houses and had need of some­
one to care for the yard and garden and of someone to do janitorial
work. About 17 percent of the part-time employees were engaged for
these kinds of work.
Only a very small proportion of the employers engaged part-time
workers for mending, as that was one of the duties for which they
themselves took the responsibility. Since over two fifths of these
employers had no children under 16, only a small percentage (about
4 percent) employed part-time workers solely for the care of children.
The occasional employer engaged a butler, chauffeur, waitress,
chambermaid, visiting housekeeper, or even a general worker for
part-time service to supplement the work of the regular full-time
employees, but the number doing so was very small.




24

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO
Table 15.—Kinds of work for which 'part-time workers were employed
[Reported by 234 employers]

Kinds of part-time work

Part-time workers em­
ployed for specified
kinds of work 1
Number

Total.
Laundry..............................................
Cleaning.............................. ................
Cleaning and laundry----------------Chore boy, houseman, and janitor.
Gardener, yardman...... ....................
Care of children------------------- ----Mending and sewing_____ ______
General work......................................
Chauffeur................................. ..........
Butler_______________ __________
Waitress...............................................
Visiting housekeeper____________
Chambermaid__________________
Kind not Indicated............................

264
116
45
19
25
19
9
8

3
3
2

1
1
1
12

Percent
100.0
68.2

16.7
3.4
3.0
4.2

4.5

1 Both men and women.

EMPLOYERS’ NEED OF ASSISTANCE AT DIFFERENT TIME PERIODS
DURING THE DAY

One outstanding objection that workers have to employment in
private homes is that the working day is so very long in comparison
to that in other occupations and that the amount of leisure time is
so uncertain and irregular.
Information concerning the comparative need of the employer for
assistance during different time periods of the day should serve as a
basis for establishing a working day of reasonable length and for
determining the free time during the day and evening that the
employee can definitely count on for herself.
An analysis of the schedules shows that on week days somewhat
more employers needed the assistance of a household worker from
5 to 8 in the evening than at any other time of the day. Of 218
employers, 86 percent had maximum need for help at this time.
This is not surprising, since it means the need of assistance in the
preparation and serving of the evening meal, which for the majority
of Chicago families probably is dinner, and the straightening up
afterwards. Only slightly less need (84 percent) was felt for help
during the hours from before 7 to 11, for the preparation of break­
fast and such work of the household as is usually carried on during
the morning.
The need of help during the midday hours from 11 to 2 o’clock
ranked third, nearly half the employers having maximum need of
assistance during this period.
The majority of the households having maximum need of assistance
from 2 to 5 in the afternoon were those in which there were children
or in which there was need of service all day and more than one
full-time worker was employed. However, about 50 percent had no
need or had minimum need of workers at this time and 60 households
had no such need at all.




25

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

Almost two thirds of the households had no need of assistance
before 7 o’clock in the morning during the week and less than three
tenths had maximum need of assistance at this time. Almost three
fifths of the households had no need of assistance after 8 o’clock in
the evening and less than one tenth had maximum need of assistance
at this time.
Table

16.—Comparative need of employers for household assistance during given
time periods, week days and Sundays
Number of employers having—
Time periods
Maximum Minimum
need
need

Week days (218 employers reporting):
Before 7 a.m.......................................
7 to 11 a.m_______ ______ _______
11 a.m. to 2 p.m_____________
2 to 5 p.m_____________________
5 to 8 p.m............................................
8 to 11 p.m____________________
•Sunday (192 employers reporting):
Before 8 a.m____________________
8 to 11 a.m__________________ __
11 a.m. to 2 p.m__......................... __
2 to 5 p.m.................. .........................
5 to 8 p.m_____________________
8 to 11 p.m___________ ____ ____
All day_______ ____ ___ _____ _

No need

64
120
106
70
188
19

16
6
18
48
5
62

138
15
18
60
7
127

50
161
170
26
42
11

15
3
3
30
18
30

121
3
4
112
111
138
5

On Sunday many more employers had need of assistance from 8
in the morning to 2 in the afternoon than at any other time of the
day, the need being slightly greater from 11 to 2 than from 8 to 11.
Apparently fewer employers felt the need of help in getting breakfast
Sunday morning than in getting and serving Sunday dinner. In
only a little over one fourth of the homes was there need for the
household employee to begin her work before 8 on Sunday morning,
and in over three fifths of the homes there was no need of assistance
at this time. In seven tenths of the homes there was no need of
service after 8 in the evening. In fact, in the majority of the homes
there was no need of Sunday service after 2 in the afternoon.
In about 60 percent of the homes, then, the chief need of assistance
was from 8 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon on Sundays, and in
50 percent of the homes the need was from 7 in the morning to 2 in
the afternoon and from 5 to 8 in the evening on week days, making
possible a 6-hour day on Sunday and a 10-hour week-day program
for half the homes for which household workers were reported.
If in so high a proportion of these Chicago households a 10-hour
day was possible during the week, with 6 hours on Sunday, in each
case including time for meals, it would seem that a reasonable work­
ing day could be planned by a much larger proportion of the serviceemploying group than at present if a time schedule were prepared
and adhered to. In the households where this is not possible the
solution would seem to lie in supplementing the services of the full­
time worker by part-time or additional full-time service, rather than
of requiring of one employee a working day of unreasonable length.
1690°—33-----5




26

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

THE HOUSEHOLD WORKER PREFERRED BY CHICAGO
EMPLOYERS

Information in regard to those characteristics that the employer
considers highly desirable in the household worker whom she employs
should be of particular interest and value to the group of women and
girls interested in household employment as a means of earning their
livelihood and to the vocational advisors interested in helping young
girls and women to choose the particular vocations for which they are
best fitted.
The schedules of the Chicago study furnish this information in
regard to race and nativity, domicile status, and personality traits.
Race and nativity

The Chicago employer of household service appears to have a
decided preference for the foreign-born white household employee.
More than one third of the entire group in the present study expressed
this specific preference and one tenth more expressed a preference for
either native or foreign-born white. Apparently, when she has a
choice between the two, the employer chooses the foreign-born, for
more than two fifths had such full-time women employees and one
half had at least one foreign-born woman worker in their employ,
while less than one fourth had native-born white women employees.
More than one sixth of the employers expressed a preference for
Negro workers, while a small group (9) specified either foreign-born
white or Negro. Apparently those having no choice employed Negro
workers, for more than one third of the entire number reporting had
one or more Negro women in their employ.
Table

17.—Race and nativity preferred by employers

Race and nativity
*

Employers preferring
workers of specified
race and nativity
Number

Total employers reporting.......................................................................................

Percent

248

100.0

90

36.3
14.1
10.1
3.6
17.7
17.7

White:

Either foreign-born white, or Negro............................................ ..................................

9
1

Table 18.—Number and percent of employers having full-time women workers of

specified race and nativity in their employ

Race and nativity

Employers having
workers of specified
race and nativity
Number

Total employers reporting.
Foreign-born white only__________________
Native-born white only___________________
Negro only............................................................
Native white and foreign-born white_______
Native white and Negro............... ................... .
Foreign-born white and Negro_____________
Native white, foreign-born white, and Negro.




Percent

247

100.0

106
38
81
16
3
3

42.9
15.4
32.8

1

6.1
1.2

1.2
.4

27

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

Though only one employer specifically stated that her choice of
race and nativity depended on the position to be filled, it seems evident
that the 9 percent who employed women of more than one race or
nativity were influenced by this in their choice of workers. In the
three households where both native white and Negro workers were
employed, the native-white employee was the nursemaid or practical
nurse and the Negro the houseworker.
Domicile status

There has been much discussion on the part of those whose primary
interest is the girl herself as to the advisability of the household em­
ployee living in the home of her employer, as it so frequently deprives
her of the social life that is necessary to her normal development.
The schedules show that employers, as a rule, prefer the resident
employee. About three fourths of the total 250 answering this ques­
tion expressed this preference and carried it into practice, actually
employing at least one resident worker. Many employers who had
children expressed the need of having an adult in the house at night
when the adult members of the family were out. Others required
someone on the job all the time.
Table 19.—Domicile status of full-time women employees compared with preference

of employers
[Reported by employers]
Number of employers—

Domicile status of employees

Preferring
specified
domicile
status

Having em­
ployees with
specified
domicile
status

250
Outside home of employer--------- --------- ------ ------ --------------------- ------------Both in and outside home of employer................................ ....................................
Not indicated or no preference----------------- ------------------------ ------ --------- —-

250

189
42
2
17

185
50
4
11

About one sixth expressed a preference for the nonresident em­
ployee, but in actual practice slightly more than one fifth had at least
one nonresident full-time worker. One employer expressed the belief
that the worker who lives out is happier. Another preferred that her
employee live out because she had “too much company”; a room
with bath, however, was available for her use on stormy nights. A
third employer would have much preferred a resident employee to
stay at night with the children, but she had never had a room for a
servant.
.
It is evident that those employers who preferred the resident
employee were accustomed to expect her to be ready at all times to
perform any duties requested. In fact, one employer said that the
reason she did not employ a resident worker was because it took so
much of her time “thinking up things to keep her busy.” This atti­
tude makes it apparent that even at the present time there are em­
ployers who feel that when they engage a household employee they




28

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

have engaged her entire time and that they have a responsibility in
keeping that time completely filled. This group of employers appar­
ently feel little responsibility for the social life of the girl and her
normal healthy development. The very fact that one employer said
she preferred that her employee live out because she had too much
company implied a reluctance on the part of the employer to permit
the employee to carry on much social life in her home. If the status
of household employment as an occupation is to be improved so that
any but the most timid and backward will care to go into it, the
employer of the resident worker must come to the realization that
she must make ample provision for the social life of the employee,
providing both a time and a place for it as well as for her working
day. She must assume a double responsibility not held by the
employer of nonresident workers.
Personality traits desired in employees

The Chicago employers were asked to express an opinion as to the
relative importance to them of specified personality traits in house­
hold employees. There is always a question as to the value and
reliability of the expression of an opinion unless there is some means
of verification. The fact that many employers said they found it
very difficult to check the traits according to their importance indi­
cates that at least an effort at accuracy was made. There was no
means of verifying the statements, and the results are given as mere
opinion. However, even an opinion should be of some value to the
vocational advisor or placement bureau as a guide in determining the
personality traits of the girls who are to fill positions as household
employees, if employers are to have the type of girl they say they
want.
Of the 248 employers who indicated the relative importance to
them of the personality traits listed, 87 percent desired “honesty”
and over three fifths desired “dependableness” more than or as much
as any other trait. Two fifths but less than one half desired “willing­
ness”, “good nature”, “kindness to children”, and the “ability to
follow directions”, and somewhat fewer desired “orderliness”, “neat­
ness in appearance”, “loyalty”, and “courteousness.”
Only 32 of the 248 employers considered “knowing her place” an
important trait, and 176 desired it least or as little as any other trait.
According to this statement of opinion the attitude that a household
employee holds an inferior place in the household and that she must
show an awareness of this was not so prevalent as it had been in the
past. Fourteen of the 248 employers commented specially on this
trait, the majority expressing a dislike of the phrase, which can be
summarized by the comment of one employer, “I consider ‘knows her
place' un-American.” A somewhat different reaction was expressed
in the statements,“The case is most unusual where a girl is annoying
through presumption” and “The obsequious person who ‘knows her
place’ I do not care for; she will whine.” The old attitude, however,
crept out in the statement of the employer who said, “If a mistress is
sure of her position, she will have no trouble. Only the unsure
mistress fears her maids will not know their place.”




CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYING GROUP

29

Table 20.—Traits desired most, desired least, and those seldom found in employees

by employer
[Based on reports of 248 employers]
Number of employers who—
Traits

Honesty_________ _________
Dependableness____________ _______
Willingness.......................................... ......................
Good nature . _. ____________
Kindness to children___ ____ _______ _ ...........
Ability to follow directions................... ___..................
Orderliness_________ _____
Neatness in appearance___ __________________ ________________
Loyalty___ ______________ _________________
Courteousness........................................................................
Initiative______ _____ ______ ______ ____
Knows her place____ _________________

Desire most
or as much
as any other
trait

Desire least
or as little
as any other
trait

215
154
116
113
109
104
96
81
69
69
53
32

2
13
28
37
91
36
33
48
76
64
98
176

Seldom
find

9
34
6
12
101
14

Only about one fifth of the employers considered “initiative” a
desirable trait in an employee. One employer went so far as to say
that it was “potentially dangerous”, and many probably considered
it so, since they desired an employee who would do what she was told
to do. Yet this same employee is expected to meet emergencies when
they arise. The employer seems to have little realization of the fact
that the person who is willing and expected always to do just what
she is told to do soon loses confidence in her own judgment, hesitates
to take even the slightest responsibility, and so needs special help
when emergencies arise. It may be said in passing that if the em­
ployers had been gainfully occupied outside the home, their replies
regarding initiative would have been very different.
The fact that two fifths of the employers seldom found initiative
in their workers is particularly significant of the type of girl who
enters household employment as an occupation. It implies that she
is timid, slow, and unprogressive. Since so few employers considered
initiative of primary importance, it also implies that a large number
of girls in household employment must meet the employers’ require­
ment in this respect.
The ability to follow directions was considered of primary impor­
tance by two fifths of the employers reporting. The fact that almost
one seventh seldom found it in employees would seem to indicate
that though the employee may lack initiative, which would meet the
desire of many employers, she may also lack the ability to follow
directions, which the employer felt the need of in lieu of initiative,
and so be particularly unsatisfactory.
Summary

These preferences of the employer may be summed up as follows:
1. The foreign-born white worker was preferred by the largest
single group (36 percent) of employers. The Negro ranked sec­
ond in preference and the native-born white third.
2. The resident employee was preferred by three fourths of the
employers.




30

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

In the opinion of the employer, “honesty” and “dependableness”
were of the greatest importance and “initiative” and “knowing her
place” were of comparatively little importance.
SUMMARY

The demand for full-time household employees in Chicago is largely
confined to the group of households having an income of $5,000 or
more a year. The majority of employers reporting preferred the resi­
dent worker of foreign birth. They employed an average of 1.5 full­
time workers and 1.1 part-time workers. In three fourths of the
households there was only one full-time worker, the general worker,
and in a third of these households she was not assisted by any part­
time employees. The total number of household workers employed
increased as the income increased. The size and composition of the
family had little influence in determining the number employed, but
a large house and a large staff of workers seemed to go together.
In general, employers felt a greater need for assistance with the
preparation of food, washing dishes, and the daily and weekly care of ■
the house than with any other part of the housework. The employee
had the major responsibility, however, only in those tasks that might
truly be termed household drudgery, such as the washing of dishes
and the weekly cleaning.
So large a proportion of employers had no need on week days of
assistance before 7 in the morning, for a 2-hour or 3-hour period in
the afternoon, and after 8 in the evening, and on Sundays before 8 in
the morning and after 2 in the afternoon, that it should be possible to
plan a working day of more reasonable length than ordinarily obtains.
This is a matter of the highest importance, and it should receive
much more attention than it now receives from socially-minded
employers and groups of employers.




Part II. CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYEE GROUP
Census reports and in many cases employment bureau figures are
unsatisfactory as a source of specific data concerning the worker in
private households. It is necessary, therefore, to depend for infor­
mation on special studies of the occupation. The study of household
employment carried on in Chicago contributes to this. Information
secured from employees concerns the proportion engaged in each
branch of household work, their age, race and nativity, marital status,
education and training, wages received, and their reaction to their
work.
OCCUPATION

Information concerning the specific kind of work in which they were
engaged was secured for 576 women who were full-time household
employees. Two thirds of these workers were engaged in general
housework, more than one eighth were cooks, and less than one tenth
were second girls. The remaining 12 percent were nursemaids,
chambermaids, governesses, practical nurses, and from 1 to 4 each of
several other occupations. Other studies also have shown that a
large proportion of household employees are general workers, and
records of the Chicago Urban League for 1928 and 1929 show that of
1,296 requests for household employees, 1,164, or 89.8 percent, were
for general houseworkers, as contrasted with 43 requests for cooks, 61
for second maids, and 18 for nursemaids.
Table 21.—Full-time women workers in each specified branch of household

employment, by race and nativity
[Data from both employers and employees]
Race and nativity

Employees
Branch of employment

Total......................................................
General houseworker_____ ______ _
Second girl.......................... ...............................

Percent
Number distribu­
tion

Native
white

Foreignborn
white

Not
reported

Negro

676

100.0

161

240

172

3

382
76
60
26
16
6
5
4
3
2
2
2
1
1

66.3
13.2
8.7
4.5
2.8
1.0
.9
.7
.6
.3
.3
.3
.2
.2

110
13
13
12
5
2
2
1

128
44
29
13
11
4
3
2
3
1

142
19
7
1

2

1

1

1
2

2
1
1

The work of the general servant undoubtedly is more strenuous
than that of the specialist. She is called on to do almost everything,
while the cook usually is not expected to do anything outside the




31

32

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

kitchen. As a rule, the general worker is expected to be a specialist
in all lines and to have equal skill in each branch of household work,
so it is only natural for the general servant who excels in cooking to
desire a position.as cook. Furthermore, the results of various studies
show that, in spite of the fact that the general worker is expected to
be a specialist in all lines of household work, her wage is lower than
that of the cook, which is another reason why she should desire a
position as cook in preference to one as general worker.
Perhaps the simplification of the task of the general worker began
with the employment of the part-time worker and has advanced with
the growth of this service, as for the most part it is for washing win­
dows, laundry work, and extra and heavy cleaning that the part-time
worker of today is engaged. A small proportion of present-day
general workers have had their work thus simplified and do neither
laundry work nor weekly cleaning. However, a glance at the list of
things general workers are asked to do that they consider no part of
their job gives a very good picture of the variety of tasks expected
and the need of simplification. Besides washing windows on the
outside and laundry work, neither of which they consider part of their
job, they are asked to do the following tasks:
Care for plants
Care for children
Take children to school
Make child eat
Care for furnace
Care for fuel oil
Shovel walks
Clean up yard
Clean basement
Clean house
Wash walls and ceiling
Take down screens
Clean woolen garments in naphtha
Mend and sew

Press dresses
Manicure nails and perform other
personal services
Make appointments for employer
Carry luggage
Make candy
Serve at parties
Go on errands
Varnish furniture
Wash auto
Bathe and care for dogs and cats
Cook for dogs and cats
Wash out silk dresses and underwear

One employee summed up the situation when she said, “I am asked
to do anything and everything.” The wonder is not that there is a
limited number of general workers from which to choose but that there
are any women and girls at all willing to do general work.
RACE AND NATIVITY

Of 573 full-time women workers whose race and nativity were
reported in the present study, more than two fifths were foreign-born
white, three tenths were Negro, and slightly less than three tenths
were native white.
Table 22.—Full-time women household employees, by race and nativity
[Data from employers and employees]
Employees
Race and nativity
Number

Percent
distribution

Total..............................................

573

100.0

Native white.........................................
Foreign-born white....... ...................__
Negro_________ _____ _______ _____

161
240
172

28.1
41.9
30.0




33

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYEE GROUP

The change in the number in each race and nativity group in Chi­
cago, as shown by census data for the 10-year periods 1910 to 1920
and 1920 to 1930, for those branches of domestic and personal service
in which most household employees are included, is shown in table 23.
The number of Negro workers in private and public households
increased by 300 percent during the 20 years, advancing from third
place in 1910 and 1920 to first in 1930. They made up 12 percent
of the entire group in 1910, 23 percent in 1920, and 37 percent in
1930. Foreign-born whites, on the other hand, decreased by almost
one third between 1910 and 1920 and had an 11 percent increase in
the next decade, a net decline in 20 years of 25 percent. In 1930 they
made up only 34' percent of the total, as compared with 47 percent in
1920 and 59 percent in 1910. The native whites,though they increased
in actual number in the 20 years, did not quite maintain their pro­
portion of the total.
Table 23.—Number of native-born white, foreign-born white, and Negro women in

certain selected occupations, Chicago, censuses of 1910, 1920, and 1930 1
1910

1920

1930
Occupation

ForeignForeignNative Foreign- Negro Native born
Negro Native born Negro
born
white white
white white
white white

Total...------- ---------------- 18,323
274
Housekeepers and stewardesses. 3,614
Laundresses (not in laundry)...
381
2,156
11, 898

22,178 23,985 12,772

19,931

9,695 14, 301

29,528

6,001

151
2, 575
922
2,161
6,963

1,006
2,090
2, 858
1,012
12, 965

123
315
2,853
154
6, 250

200
1,680
1,209
1,901
9,311

854
1,721
3, 794
1,529
21, 630

98
191
2,115
85
3,512

1,470
447
669
2, 286
897 1,629
194
840
16, 686 21,146

1 U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population, Occupations: 1910, vol. IV, p. 647; 1920, vol. IV, p. 1080;
Occupation Statistics, 1930, Illinois, p. 34.
* Includes midwives in 1910.

Considering merely the group “servants”, there are found for the
20 years an increase of 502 percent in the number of Negroes, a
decrease of 23 percent in foreign-born white, and an increase of 28
percent in native white.
The employers in the present study seemed to prefer the foreignborn household employee. More than a third of the 248 employers
reporting on this point expressed a specific preference for them.
More than two fifths had only foreign-born workers, and just over
one half had at least one foreign-born worker in their employ. It
is in this nativity group, however, that the great decrease occurred
from 1910 to 1930; and if the same rate of decrease continues, un­
doubtedly the supply will be inadequate to meet the demand in a
comparatively short time. Well over one third of Chicago’s em­
ployers either have no preference or prefer Negro workers. Judging
by "the tremendous rate of increase in the past 20 years, the supply
of Negro servants probably will be sufficient for some time to come
for those who have a preference for their services or have no race
preference, unless there should be a decided change in the trend of
their employment.
AGE

Of 552 full-time women household employees in the present study
whose age was reported, over one-half were 25 to 44 years, over three
tenths were under 25 years, and almost one sixth were 45 years
over.



34

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Table 24.—Number and ■proportion of full-time women household employees in

each age group
[Data from employers and employees]
Employees
Age group
Number

Percent dis­
tribution

Total with age reported_____

552

100.0

Under 18 years..................... ...........
18 to 24 years.......................................
25 to 44 years____________
_____
45 years and over............. ............

43
130

7.8
23.6
52.7
15.9

291

88

The age distribution of the general workers was wider than that of
any other group. Of the 369 with age reported, almost one half were
25 to 44 years, over one fourth were 18 to 24, about one ninth were
under 18, and about one seventh were 45 or over. All but one of the
entire group of workers under 18 were general houseworkers.
As a group the cooks were older than the general servants. Only
three of the 71 were under 25, while nearly seven tenths were 25 to
44 and over one fourth were 45 or more.
The 47 second girls were younger than the cooks but not so young
as general workers. Twenty-eight were 25 to 44 years, with 11
younger and 8 older.
The 26 children’s nurses, as a group, were younger than other
household employees. One half were 18 to 24. Only 2 were as
much as 45.
Of the 15 chambermaids, none was either under 18 or as much as
45. Two tlurds were 25 to 44.
Comparison with other studies is difficult because various age
groupings have been used, but as a general conclusion it may be said
that, taken as a whole, the present group of household employees
is made up of older women than the corresponding group about 40
years ago. This difference would be even more marked if only the
employees reported on by employers were considered, for about
four fifths were 25 years or over, one fifth 45 or more.
Table 25.—Full-time women workers in each specified branch of household employ­

ment, by age group
[Data from employers and employees]
Total employees
Branch of employment

Total—_________ _____________
General houseworker
Second girl______ _______ ____ ______

Cleaning and heavy work....... .............. .
Second girl and child’s nurse...................
Parlormaid.................................................




Age group

Percent Under
18 to
25 to 44 45 years Age not
Number distri­
bution 18 years 24 years years and over reported
576

100.0

43

130

291

88

24

382
76
50
26
16
6
5
4
3
2
2
2
1
1

66.3
13.2
8.7
4.5
2.8
1.0
.9
.7
.5
.3
.3
.3
.2
.2

42

97
3
10
13
5

181

49

13

28
11
10

8

3

2

1

1

1
1

1

2
1
1

35

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYEE GROUP

Judging by the employers’ comments and by the ages of the house­
hold workers they reported, the majority of employers preferred
workers over 25. About one fourth had in their employ workers who
were 45 or more.
MARITAL STATUS

Nearly three fourths of the 250 full-time household employees
who reported their marital status were single. Of the 160 white em­
ployees, 96 percent were single as contrasted with 34 percent of the
90 Negroes. Two thirds of the Negroes were married, widowed, or
divorced, and therefore probably had home responsibilities. None
of the white employees had children. Of the 24 Negro employees
who had children, only 8 had children under 16.
Table 26.—Full-time women household employees, by race and marital status, with

a distribution of the married and widowed, by number and age of children
[Data from 250 employees]
Race

Total employees
White
Marital status

Negro

Percent
Number distribu­
Percent
Percent
tion
Number distribu­ Number distribu­
tion
tion

Total-------------- --------------- l..............

250

100.0

160

100.0

90

100.0

Single________________ ____ ___________

184

73.6

153

95.6

31

34.4

Married.......................-..........................-..........

17

6.8

4

2.5

13

14.4

10
1
2

4

Widowed, divorced, or separated....... ...........

49

19. 6

3

1.9

3
...............

Children both under 16 and 16 and

46

51.1

25
5
14

SCHOOLING

Of 246 Chicago employees for whom information concerning school­
ing was available, 166 (67.5 percent) had completed no grade higher
than the eighth. Only 15 (6.1 percent) had finished high school and
12 (less than 5 percent) had had any college work or special training,
as business college, kindergarten, or nurses’ training.
Though the numbers are too small for the drawing of conclusions,
the white and Negro employees show interesting contrasts. Only 25
percent of the white women had stopped before or when reaching the
eighth grade, while 37 percent of the Negroes had done so. Twenty
percent of the Negroes, in contrast to less than 3 percent of the
whites, had completed only the fifth grade or below. On the other
hand, 38 percent of the Negroes, and only 30 percent of the whites,
had gone above the eighth grade. Special or college work was re­
ported by 11 white women but by only 1 Negro.




36

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO
Table 27.—Schooling of full-time women household employees, by race

Grade completed or training received

Employees
reporting
Number

Total.............................................................
Grade:
Fifth and below..........................................
Sixth................................. ...................
Seventh............................................
Eighth..____________________________
Ninth......................................... . .
Tenth.......................................................
Eleventh............. ................................... . .
Twelfth.. _______ _____ ______ _
.
Special training (business college, nursing, kindergarten)..........
Some college training.. ........................................... .

Race

Percent

White

Negro

246
21
21
29
95
30
20
3
15
6
6

8.5
8.5

9

12. 2

8.1

1

6.1
2.4
2.4

1

Only one of the 26 children’s nurses in the Chicago study, and none
of the governesses or practical nurses, were Negro, and it was in these
branches of work that the employees with more formal education
were for the most part engaged.
TRAINING FOR HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT

Few of these employees had had training in special classes as prepa­
ration for the work they were doing. Of the 246 reporting on their
training, just over one fourth, whether white or Negro, had attended
such classes, but less than 3 percent of the total had received there all
the preparation for their work.
More than one fourth of the total had secured all their training in
their own homes; about one eighth had received all in the homes in
which they had worked; and one third had had their training in both
these places.
Table 28.

Place in which training for household employment was obtained, by race

Place in which training was obtained

Employees
reporting

Race

Number
Total______________
Own home only............. .....................
Homes in which employed...
Special classes_________ ______
All three of foregoing...______
Own home and homes in which employed
Own home and special classes...
Homes in which employed and special classes..........

Percent

246

100.0

157

89

67
30
6
32
83
22
6

27.2
12.2
2.4
13.0
33.7
9.0
2.4

34
15
5
23
65
13
2

33
15
1
9
18
9
4

White

Negro

Of the workers who had attended special classes, nearly three tenths
considered this training more valuable than that received in their
own homes or in the homes in which they had been employed. About
three fifths of those who had had a part or all of their training in their
own homes considered this training the most valuable. Of those
who had had all or a part of their training in the homes in which they




CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYEE GROUP

37'

had worked, seven tenths considered this of more value than any
other training.
Of the entire group of workers, nearly one half considered as the
most valuable the training received in their own homes, slightly more
than two fifths the training received in the homes in which they had
worked, and only 1 woman in 13 the work in special classes.
Table 29.—Training considered most valuable, by race
Employees
reporting

Race

Training
White

Negro

Number

Percent

Total................................................................................................

246

100.0

157

89

In own home--------------------------------------------------------------------In homes in which employed.............................................................
In special classes________________________ ___________ ______
In own home and homes in whioh employed..................................

120
104
19
3

48.8
42.3
7.7
1.2

73
70
12
2

47
34
7
1

Efficiency of the supply

Because of this general lack of special preparation for their work on
the part of employees, and because so large a proportion received their
training in their own homes where standards probably were very
different from those in the homes in which they were employed, it is
not surprising that all but 14 of the 211 employers reporting on the
need of training new employees said that their employees needed such
training in all or some of their duties. About one eighth of the
employers reported that new employees needed training in everything.
Table 30.—Branch of household employment in which employers found it necessary

to train new workers

Branch of household employment

Employers finding
training necessary in
specified branches
Number

Percent
100.0

Total. ---------- ---------------------- ---------------- ------ -----------------------------------

211

No training necessary (employ only trained workers).................................................

14

6.6

Training necessary in one or more branches—......................................................... .

197

93.4

69
69
35
35
11
10
9
5
4
26

32.7
32.7
16.6
16.6
5.2
4.7
4.3
2.4
1.9
12.3

Of 211 employers reporting on the training required by new
employees, 26 stated that it was necessary in all lines of work. Aside
from this group, however, no great amount of dissatisfaction with
the training and experience of new employees was expressed. Cook­
ing and serving, the lines of work said to require most training, were




38

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

done satisfactorily in more than two thirds of the cases, and in other
lines the inadequacy of training was slight.
More employers found training inadequate in cooking and serving
than in any other kind of housework; almost one third had found it
necessary to give training in these branches. One sixth reported
that employees needed training in cleaning, more especially with
reference to thoroughness and order than to method of cleaning.
One sixth reported that employees needed training in “my way of
doing things.” Other kinds of work in which employers had found
it necessary to train their employees were planning, care of children,
dishwashing, orderliness, and use of equipment, particularly electric
equipment.
Though these figures indicate inadequate training on the part of
many of the employees studied, as a matter of fact the employers
reported that for 45 percent of their present employees training and
experience were adequate when they were engaged, for almost 30
percent of the employees training and experience were superior, and
for only 25 percent were they meager. The present supply of workers
may have had better training than those in the past, or perhaps those
with meager training were not retained for any length of time. It
may be that the employer, expecting to have to train the household
employee in some things, considered the average training and experi­
ence as “adequate” even where some training in all branches or a
great deal in one branch was needed. The variance more probably is
due to the fact that there is no standard of measurement for adequacy
and the standard of the individual employer cannot be depended upon
to remain constant.
Table 31.

Adequacy of training and experience of present full-lime women
employees when engaged
[245 employers reporting]
Employees reported
Adequacy of employees' training and
experience when engaged
Number

Percent

Total.......... ................. .

332

100.0

Superior ________
Meager ............. .....................

98
84

29.5
25.3

The majority of the women engaged in household employment at
the present time are apparently able to gain skill in the various kinds
of work that they have to do when training is given them by their
employer. According to the statement of employers, one fourth of
their present workers had had “meager” preparation for their work
when engaged, but at the time the schedules were filled out only a
very small proportion were considered poor in the different kinds of
work they had to do, and a very large proportion were considered
good. For example, for 238 general workers and cooks, over three
fourths were rated as good in cooking, one fifth were rated as fair,
and less than 3 percent were rated as poor. Even 7 out of 11 other
workers who only occasionally did the cooking were rated good, and
4 fair, none being rated poor, A slightly higher proportion were




39

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYEE GROUP

considered as fair in other kinds of housework, but for all housework
but mending, about seven tenths of the general workers and cooks
reported as responsible for the different types of work were rated as
good.
Table 32.—Efficiency of present full-time women employees in various kinds of

household work
Employers reporting efficiency of—
Kind of housework

General worker and cook
Total

Cleaning----------- -------------------- ------

Mending

Good

238
224
215
203
119
84
65
22

181
169
137
115
85
65
45
11

Fair
51
48
74
78
28
17
16
8

Others

Poor
6
7
4
10
6
2
4
3

Total

Good

11
30
44
40
27
22
28
33

7
27
34
31
19
17
23
24

Fair
4
3
7
9
8
5
5
8

Poor

3

1

WAGES

Of 558 full-time women employees whose wages and living status
were reported, 83 percent lived with the employer for whom they
worked, a large proportion probably being accounted for by the
somewhat high average of the employing households as regards
economic status. Well over one half of the 573 employees were
reported upon by the householders, of whom 62 percent had incomes
of over $10,000 and 72 percent lived in homes of 10 rooms or more.
(See table 3, p. 11.)
The practice of living at the place of employment was much more
common among white than among Negro employees. Of the former,
95 percent lived in, while of the latter only 55 percent did so. Marital
status, which probably had a good deal to do with this, was reported
only on the 250 schedules made out by employees, and among these
only 34 percent of the Negroes, in contrast to more than 95 percent
of the whites, were single. If any such difference obtained among the
employees reported upon by the householders, this would be sufficient
to account for the customs of the two races as regards living status.
For 388 full-time white employees, the wage range was from under
$10 a week (for mothers’ helpers) to $35 a week. More received $20
and under $25 than were in any other wage group. The median was
about $19.50.
The wages reported for 170 full-time Negro employees ranged from
$10 to $30 a week. More received $15 and under $20 than were in
any other wage group. The median was about $17.
Wages of resident employees

Of 366 white employees who lived in and whose weekly wage data
were reported, 39 percent received $20 and under $25 and almost as
many (37 percent) received $15 and under $20. Only 10 percent
were in the group receiving $25 or more, and only 14 percent received
less than $15. Almost half of the employees in the wage group last
mentioned were mothers’ helpers who were less than 18 years old and




40

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

were paid less than $10. Slightly more than half of all for whom the
wage was reported received less than $20.
Table 33,

Weekly wages and living status of full-time white women employees, by
branch of household employment
[Based on data from both employers and employees]
Number living out who
received—

Number living in who received—

Total
Branch of household employment num­
$10
$20
$15
Wage
$10
$15
ber Less and and and $25
not Less and and $20
than less less less and
re­ than less less and
$10 than than than over port­ $10 than than over
$15
$20
$25
ed
$15
$20
Total............................

401

23

27

137

142

37

General houseworker______
Cook_______ _______
Second girl.........................
Child’s nurse________ ____
Chambermaid...... ..............
Governess_______ ____
Nurse (not trained)...................
Ladies’maid............................
Laundress__________ ______
Kitchenmaid- ______
Second girl and child’s nurse
Parlormaid__________ _______
Housekeeper___________________

238
57
42
25
16
6
5
3
3
2
2
1
1

23

22
1
1
3

104
4
10
10

62
34
23

3
14

1

1
2

2
1
1

1

Table 34.

7

13

15

2

4

3

15

2

3

1

3

2

Weekly wages and living status of full-time Negro women employees, by
branch of household employment
[Based on data from both employers and employees]
Number li ving out who
received—

Number living in who received—

Branch of household em­ Total
$10
$15
$20
num­
Wage
$10
$15
$20
ployment
ber Less and and and $25
not Less and and and
$25
than less less less and
re­ than less less less and
$10 than than than over port­ $10 than than than
over
$15
$20
$25
ed
$15
$20
$25
Total................ ............

172

1

15

55

17

6

2

8

24

38

General houseworker............
Cook________________ ___
Second girl Child’s nurse......... ............ .
Laundress
Cleaning and heavy work-.

142
19
7
1
1
2

1

14

44
8
3

10

3
2

1
1

8

20

35

1

3

6

1
1

1

1

For the 93 resident Negro household workers who had wage data
reported, the wages were lower than those of white employees. The
wage received by the largest proportion of Negro workers was $15 and
under $20 a week, 59 percent being in this group. Only 24 percent
ieceived as much as $20, and only 5 women in all received as much as
$25. Only 1 was paid less than $10. Just over three fourths of all
for whom the wage was reported received less than $20.
A common criticism of the wage paid to household employees is
that it is not based on the ability and experience of the worker.
However, the results of this study show that there is a definite relation
between wage and the age of the worker. No resident white employee
under 18 years of age received as much as $15 a week; two thirds of




41

CHARACTER OF THE EMPLOYEE GROUP

those from 18 to 24 years of age received $15 and under $20; over
one half of those 25 to 44 years of age received $20 and under $25;
and of those 45 years and over, nearly one third received at least $25
& week
The findings of the study show that wage is also dependent on the
kind of work. Almost 70 percent of the resident white employees
doing general housework received less than $20 a week, but 91 percent
of the cooks received at least $20 and 26 percent received $25 or more.
Over seven tenths of the second girls, nearly three fourths of the
chambermaids, and nearly half the children’s nurses received $20 or
more.
*
Among resident Negro employees more than four fifths of the gen­
eral workers received a wage of less than $20 a week, while 6 of the
14 cooks and 3 of the 7 second girls received $20 or more.
Whether the worker is white or Negro, the wage of the general
servant is lower than that of other full-time resident workers.
Table 35.—Weekly wages of full-time white women employees, by living status and

age
[Based on data from both employers and employees]
Number of employees
Wage

Age not
reported

45 years
and over

25 to 44
years

18 to 24
years

Under 18
years

Total

401

41

113

185

48

14

27
137
142
37
13

3

18
74
18
1
2

5
52
96
20
9

1
8
20
14
1

3
8
2
1

15

Total............................. -..............

15

Living in:

Living out:

2
1

L

3
1

Table 36.—Weekly wages of full-time Negro women employees, by living status and

age
[Based on data from both employers and employees)
Number of employees
Wage

Under 18
years

Total

Total............................................Living in:

172
1

25 to 44
years

18 to 24
years

2

16

106

1

5

6
37
13
2
1

55
2
Living out:




8
24
38
6

1

5
4
2

2
14
24
6
1

45 years
and over

Age not
reported

40

8

1
3
15
4
2

3

1
5
9

1
1

3

42

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Wages of nonresident employees

Comparatively few of the white employees lived outside the homes
of their employers. Only 22 of the entire number did so. Fifteen
of these were less than 18 years of age, 4 were 45 years old or older,
and the other 3 were 25 to 44. All but one of these 22 employees
were general workers. The 15 who were under 18 years of age were
mothers’ helpers, who had little responsibility for the cooking and
who received a wage of less than $10 a week. Only one in the entire
group received as much as $20; almost seven tenths received less
than $10.
A much larger proportion of the Negro employees than of the
white lived out; 45 percent of all the Negroes included in the study
lived outside the homes of their employers. One fifth of these were
45 years old or over, and almost as many were less than 25. One
half received $15 and under $20 a week; considerably less than the
three fifths of those living in who received such wages. Seven of the
77 received $20 or more a week, and 8 received less than $10. About
half of all the Negro general workers lived out, as did one fifth of
the cooks.
A comparison of the wages of resident and nonresident employees
shows a tendency for those of nonresident employees to be less than
those of the resident. Practically one half of the resident white
employees received a wage of at least $20 a week, while only 1 of the
22 nonresident employees received as much as $20. Though just
over three fourths of the resident Negro employees received less than
$20 a week, this was exceeded in the case of the nonresident employees,
91 percent of whom received less than $20.
When it is considered that the resident employee has room as well
as board provided, and frequently her uniforms and laundry, while
the nonresident worker usually has only her meals in addition to her
wage, the difference in the real wage is found to be great. It is a
question, however, whether the greater freedom of the nonresident
employee after work hours does not more than compensate for this.
STABILITY OF THE WORKER

Women in household employment have been thought not to remain
very long with any one household. A large proportion have gone
from one occupation to another, filling in the periods between resident
jobs with part-time work and anything else they could find to do.
Of 243 Chicago employees reporting years of experience, 19 percent
of the white but less than 3 percent of the Negro had been employed
in household work less than a year, and only 18 percent of the white
in contrast to 62 percent of the Negro had been so emploved 10 years
or more.
Forty five percent of the white employees, in contrast to 75 percent
of the Negroes, had done other kinds of work. For both races, 1 and
less than 5 years was the most common period reported; more Negro
women than white exceeded this. For many, this time period is the
sum of 4 or 5 different kinds of work, each engaged in for only a short
time.
The present study shows a fair degree of stability. Of 555 Chicago
employees, 47 percent had been with their present employers 1 and
under 5 years and about 15 percent for 5 years or more.




43

CHARACTER OP THE EMPLOYEE GROUP
Table 37.—Time with present employer, by race
[Employers and employees reporting]
Race
Women reported
Negro

White

Years with present employer
Number
Total---------------- --------------------- --

5 and over________________ ____________

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

555

100.0

392

100.0

163

100.0

214
200
81

38.6
46.8
14.6

145
188
59

37.0
48.0
15.1

69
72
22

42.3
44. 2
13. 5

Table 38.—Length of employee’s experience in household and other employment, by

race
Kind of employment

Years of experience

Other than
household

Household

White

Negro

White

Negro

154

89

65

63

29
72
25
28

Total____________________ _____ ____________ _____ —-

2
17
15
55

18
29
12
6

14
26
12
11

PREFERENCE OF THE WORKER AS TO DOMICILE STATUS

There has been much discussion in the past as to the advisability
of the household employee living in the home of her employer. Many
of those interested in the happiness and social welfare of the domestic
worker have felt that one step in solving the difficulties inherent in
the “servant problem” was to make provision for the employee to
live outside the home of the employer.
Of the white employees who expressed a preference in regard to
this in the present study, 128 (82 percent) preferred living in the home
in which they worked and only 28 preferred living out. Of these 28,
20 were girls under 18 years of age who had homes in Chicago, 15 of
whom comprised the entire white group living out.
With the Negro employees the situation was quite different. Of
the 89 who answered this question, 55 percent preferred living out.
Only 13 of the 89 women were under 25 years of age, and 12 of these
preferred living out. Of the older women, 39 preferred living in
and 46 did so.
,
Sixty-six percent of the Negroes were married, divorced, or widowed,
and probably many had homes in Chicago. Sixty percent of the
white employees were foreign bom. For this latter group and for
many of the native bom, household employment provides a home
as well as a job.




44

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Table 39.

Preference of full-time women employees as to living or not living at the
place of work and number living in and living out in present employment bv aae
and race
[250 employees reporting]
Number of employees
Preferring to live—

Age and race

Living—

Total
In
White—Total......... ...................

No choice Not re­
ported

Out

160

128

28

1

3

Under 18 years___________
18 to 24 years.................... .
25 to 44 years..........................
46 years and over
Age not reported................ .

41
55
58
4
2

21
50
53
3
1

20
5
1
1
1

1

90

39

49

1

1

Under 18 years
18 to 24 years...........................
25 to 44 years........ ................ .
45 years and over.......... .......
Age not reported

2
11
61
15
1

Out

3

Negro—Total.................................

In

145

15
15

61

39

2
31
8

1

8

7
1

KINDS OF HOUSEWORK THE EMPLOYEES LIKED BEST AND
COULD DO BEST
Of the 247 employees reporting their likes and dislikes as to kind
of work, 63 percent preferred cooking or liked it as well as any other
work that they had to do, and 55 percent thought they did it best or
as well as any other work. Serving and daily care of the house were
preferred by the next greatest numbers of workers, and they also
ranked second and third as far as the ability to do them well was
concerned.
Staying with children afternoons or evenings, washing clothes, and
washing dishes were the branches of housework liked least by the
greatest number of workers.
According to the opinions of the employees, cooking, serving, and
the daily care of the house were the branches of housework in which
they were most proficient. It will be recalled, however (see table 30,
page 37), that more employers found it necessary to train their
employees in cooking and serving than in any other branch of work.
These conflicting statements tend to emphasize the fact that there is
no common standard for determining efficiency, that each individual
has her own standard, and that these individual standards cannot be
depended upon to furnish an accurate statement of conditions.




CHARACTER OB’ THE EMPLOYEE GROUP

45

Table 40.—Branch of household employment full-time women workers liked best,

liked least, and could do best
[247 employees reporting]
N amber of employees
Branch of household employment

Liked best Liked least Could do
or as well or as little best or as
well as any
as any
as any
other work other work other work
155
116
114
75
73
69
65

135
96
87
38
59
73
64

64
66
60
44
25

Staying'with children:

9
22
18
41
37
48
60
62
81
46
50
41

27
56
37
24

PERSONALITY TRAITS DESIRED BY EMPLOYEES IN THE
PERSON FOR WHOM THEY WORK

Of the eight personality traits listed for checking, more than three
fourths of the 244 employees who answered the question desired
fairness the most, or at least as much as any other trait, in the person
for whom they worked. Only 29 employees indicated that this
trait was the least desired, or as little as any other, and more em­
ployees indicated that they seldom found it than indicated that they
seldom found any other trait.
Kindness, punctuality, and good nature were the next in rank as
desired most by employees.
Of all the employers’ traits listed, generosity was the trait least
desired by the workers, with courteousness and patience following in
rank. Next to fairness, punctuality and generosity were the traits
reported by the most women as seldom found in the employer.
As with a similar question answered by employers, these replies
are offered merely as an expression of opinion, since there was no
objective measure by which they could be checked.
Table 41.—Personality trait desired most, desired least, and seldom found in

employer by employee
[244 employees reporting]
Number of employees
Personality trait

Courteousness.------- ----------------- -----------------------------------------




Desired most Desired least
or as much
or as little
as any other as any other
trait
trait
188
150
120
115
95
89
80
79

29
47
77
69
92
115
129
103

Seldom
found

45
16
44
21
12
16
31
28

46

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

SUMMARY

The findings of the Chicago study show that 66 percent of the full­
time employees in private households were general workers, 13
percent were cooks, and 9 percent were second girls. The percentage
engaged in more specialized branches of housework was very small.
Over two fifths were foreign-born white, three tenths were Negro,
and almost three tenths were native white. Over one half were
from 25 to 44 years old, nearly one fourth from 18 to 24, about one
sixth 45 years or older, and 8 percent under 18. The white women
were, as a group, younger than the Negroes. Cooks were older, and
children's nurses were younger, than general workers. Nearly three
fourths of the entire group were single. Ninety-six percent" of the
white employees were single, as compared with 34 percent of the
Negroes. Of all who were or had been married, only eight had
children under 16 years of age.
Of 246 employees who reported on their schooling, more than
two thirds had completed no grade higher than the eighth. More
white than Negro women had completed the eighth grade, but more
Negroes than wh tes (38 percent and 30 percent, respectively) had
gone beyond that. However, a larger proportion of the white than of
the Negro women had completed all the high-school grades and more
had some special or college training. More than one fourth had received
all their training in their own homes, about one eighth had received
all their training in the homes in which they had worked, and one
third had had their training in both of these places.
Wages generally were lower for nonresident employees than for
resident, for Negroes than for white employees, and for general
workers than for any other group of household workers. The wage
had a tendency to increase with the age of the worker. The median
of the week’s wage for all Negro workers was $17; for all white women
it was $19.50.
One half of the employees reporting had had 5 or more years of
experience in housework. Of 555 employees reporting themselves
or reported on by employers, 47 percent had been with their present
employers 1 and under 5 years, and about 15 percent for 5 years or
more.
Most workers liked cooking better than any other kind of housework
and felt that they could do it better than other kinds of housework.
Of the white employees, 82 percent preferred living in the home of
their employer, but 55 percent of the Negro emplovees preferred
living out.
h airness was the personality trait that employees desired most in
their employers, and this was the trait reported by most employees as
seldom found.




Part III. OUTSTANDING DIFFICULTIES OF EMPLOYER
AND EMPLOYEE
DIFFICULTIES OF EMPLOYER IN SECURING HOUSEHOLD
WORKERS

One of the first difficulties that the employer of household workers
meets in dealing with the problem of household employment is how to
secure a worker with the desired qualifications. Chicago employers,
as a rule, do not limit themselves to any one method of getting in
touch with applicants for housework. Of 245 employers reporting
on this, about 50 percent used two or more methods. Perhaps this was
due to a search for a more satisfactory method than had previously
been used or to a lack of knowledge of the comparative advantages of
one method over another.
More employers secured employees through former workers than in
any other way; of the total group, 44 percent used this method. A
slightly smaller proportion (42 percent) secured them through friends
and relatives. Free private agencies, newspaper advertisements, and
fee-charging private agencies were used by 90, 82, and 20 employers,
respectively. The State employment agency was mentioned by only
5 employers.
Table 42.—Number of employers and employees using specified methods of securing

workers or work
[245 employers and 249 employees reporting]
Number using each method
Method used

Employees

Total
Employers

209
140
140
133
86
11

103
90
82
107
20
5

White

Negro

76
6
60
16
46
4

30
44
8
10
20
2

Many different methods were used to determine whether or not the
applicant had the desired qualifications. A majority of the employ­
ers required a personal interview, supplemented by oral references
secured from previous employers over the telephone or by conference.
Of 241 employers, 157 (65 percent) used this method. Four supple­
mented the interview with both written and oral references, and 14
occasionally supplemented the interview with oral references. Twenty
required a personal interview only and three required references only.
Only 13 percent required written references to supplement the
interview. The general attitude toward this type of reference was




47

48

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

expressed by the employer who said, “Written references do not count
for very much.” Even the oral reference was not considered abso­
lutely satisfactory, as is indicated by the following statements: “It
doesn’t matter whether references are oral or written unless you know
who is giving the reference. I think three I got were fakes”; and
“I consider references of no importance unless I know the household
from which the employee comes and also the character and disposition
of the former mistress.”
A small proportion of the employers who reported their employ­
ment problems considered the lack of complete records concerning
applicants registered with private agencies and the lack of honest
references the most outstanding problems connected with household
employment. One employer made the following statement relative to
references:
I interviewed 49 applicants last February, and though I had put “only expe­
rienced maids with Chicago references need apply”, not one of the 49 had a
decent Chicago reference. Finally I had to take the word of an agency because
I was desperate. It is the first time I have not kept on until I found one with the
necessary reference, but I have always had this difficulty. No one will say a
good word for the maid that leaves or is fired, and if the maid has been let out
because the family has moved away, I cannot check on her reference. Hard on
maids but also hard on employers.
Table 43.—Method used by employer to determine applicant’s qualification*
[241 employers reporting]
Method used

Number of
employers

Total............................ .......................... .

241

Personal interview only____
References only...................... ............
Both interview and references, the latter—
Oral................................. _
Written......................................... .........
Both oral and written
Either oral or written____ _________
Occasionally oral................ ............
Occasionally written.........................................
Occasionally both oral and written................
Occasionally either oral or written.................
Occasionally required but kind not reported.

20
3

4
6
14
1
1
l
3

OTHER PROBLEMS OF THE EMPLOYER

The four problems in connection with household employment most
frequently met by the employers in the present study had to do with
the training and efficiency of the employee, her character and person­
ality, her attitude toward her work and her employer, and the cost of
service and turnover.
Training and efficiency

Of the 210 employers who reported their problems, almost one half
indicated that one of their most outstanding problems was to secure
efficient workers. With some it was efficiency in connection with
planning work and budgeting time, with others it was efficiency in
both the care of children and housework, and so on.
Analysis of the schedules shows that a majority of the employers
did not desire increased efficiency sufficiently to be willing to pay
more than their present wage for workers better trained than their




OUTSTANDING DIFFICULTIES OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE

49

present workers. Of the 208 employers who answered the question
relative to increased pay for better-trained workers, only 59 (28.4 per­
cent) signified a willingness to pay higher wages for better-trained
workers. Two reasons frequently given for the unwillingness to pay
more were “Can’t afford it” and “I consider the wages I am paying
adequate.” One employer said, “I prefer to train and pay more as
employee learns and grows efficient”; another said, “No, but I will
raise the wages of any weekly employee who remains over a year and
who tries to improve the quality of her service”; and still a third said,
“I begin at a lower wage and raise as the maid becomes more compe­
tent.” Many employers included in their statement the maximum
wage that they were willing to pay. One said, “I do not believe that
a wage higher than $20 plus board and room is justified.” A second
reported, “$15 a week is ample with a laundress employed, also a
man for heavy cleaning.” A third employer stated that she raised
wages with increased skill, but $16 was the maximum when the clean­
ing and washing were done by part-time employees. The reaction of
one housewife was, “If I could afford it, I wouldn’t care how much I
had to pay for neat, efficient, satisfactory service”; and another, “I
couldn’t afford to pay more, but would manage with less hours and
pay the same.”
It is evident from such statements that each employer considered
the problem of wage and efficiency from the standpoint of her own
individual household, its income, and its special needs. Each em­
ployer had her own standard of what constituted efficiency in a house­
hold employee and what constituted an adequate wage for increased
efficiency. The basis for determining the adequacy of the wage paid,
or considered ample, or a maximum, very evidently was the size of
the individual income. The efficiency of the worker and the amount
of work to be done were minor considerations. This condition em­
phasizes the great need for wage standards in which efficiency is a
basic consideration, in order that there may be a common standard
for judging what constitutes “adequate training” and what consti­
tutes a “high wage.”
Not only were Chicago employers unwilling to pay more for bettertrained workers, but of 222 employers who answered the question con­
cerning the necessity of special training as preparation for household
employment, 78 percent did not consider special training essential
but thought efficiency could be secured through apprenticeship and
experience.
Several employers expressed the opinion that apprenticeship and
experience take too long, and that special training saves time and
should be arranged for by the employer in order to stimulate interest.
One employer considered special training essential for an “A no. 1
girl”, but thought apprenticeship and experience adequate for mod­
erately priced help. Several thought special training necessary for
those who planned to care for children, while for general housework
experience was adequate. One employer thought it necessary in the
motherless household. Another believed that “wherever training
would increase the employee’s own sense of dignity and true worth
of her service” it was essential. The same idea was expressed by the
employer who said, “Apprenticeship and experience are adequate
where one desires to assume the responsibility for her own household
management, otherwise special training is essential.” In general,




50

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

however, the, consensus of opinion was that where the employer is
capable and patient enough to teach proper methods, special training
is not essential, though it may be the quickest way of securing
efficiency.
Chicago employers not only did not consider special training nec­
essary as preparation for the occupation of household employment,
but 59 percent of 212 employers considered an elementary school edu­
cation sufficient for those who engage in the occupation. The general
opinion was, however, that a high-school education would be very
desirable, but that girls who had finished high school would not do
housework. One employer said, “It seems tome that every human
being should have the best education possible to be given. But if
high-school work is gone through, most young women think they are
above housework.” Another employer reported, “I have had the
best satisfaction from high-school girls.” A third replied, “A highschool education is desirable because it makes possible more resources
within themselves and they are more satisfied”; and a fourth said,
‘"Ihe more education the better for both employer and employee
because it cuts down time. ”
Many employers thought that the amount of education necessary
varied according to the kind of housework engaged in. One specifi­
cally stated that to have finished sixth grade was sufficient for a
laundress, but that a general houseworker should have a high-school
education. Several others believed that nursemaids should have a
high-school education while an elementary education was sufficient
for other workers. One employer who thought a household employee
should have finished the eighth grade said that her answer was “not
based on the amount of education she might use but on the amount
she seems able to have and remain a domestic employee. ” Both the
high-school graduates she had employed in the past left for what they
considered “higher callings.” Perhaps the reaction of many em­
ployers to more than an elementary education is found in the fol­
lowing statement: “The ability to follow directions accurately is
more vital than the amount of schooling.”
These replies bring out very clearly the attitude of many employers
toward household employment as an occupation and indicate the
amount of training and education they consider necessary as prepara­
tion for it. In a large proportion of the households employing full­
time service the employer herself retains the responsibility for all the
managerial tasks of the home, while the paid employee works under
her direction and has the responsibility for only those tasks requiring
more physical than mental effort. Since the work is closely directed”
the employer feels that a girl who is able to follow directions but who
has little or no initiative and only an elementary education is suffi­
ciently qualified for the work. Studies of household employment that
furnish information on the education and efficiency of the workers
show that a large proportion of the girls and women engaged in house­
hold employment at all periods have had only an elementary educa­
tion, and that about three fourths have been rated as satisfactory by
employers.
Attitude of employee

l or almost one third (31.9 percent) of the employers who reported
their problems, the employee’s attitude toward her work, toward
other workers in the same household, and toward her employer pre­




OUTSTANDING DIFFICULTIES OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE

51

sented one of the greatest difficulties. One employer said she felt
that many employees had not been properly treated and had an atti­
tude of expecting to be ill-treated, and “since they came with an
attitude of suspicion toward the employer, adjustment was difficult.”
In the households where more than one full-time worker was em­
ployed, much difficulty was experienced in securing employees who
would work together harmoniously. One employer reported that
much jealousy was evident, and that too much attention was paid
to what each one was doing or was not doing. Another reported that
she was constantly surprised at the unkindness shown each other
where more than one worker was employed. Many employers spoke
of the lack of respect that the employee had for her job, and her
feeling that she was doing an inferior type of work.
Character and personality; cost of service and turnover

About one fifth (21 percent) of the employers reporting had had
difficulty in securing persons with character and personality qualifica­
tions that were desirable. For about one seventh (14.8 percent) the
cost of paid workers and turnover had been a problem.
Statements like the following in regard to outstanding problems
were very frequent in the schedules filled out by the employers:
Lack of equal training in all branches.
Finding a good cook who liked to clean.
_
To get one who was a good cook and willing to do the washing.
It is difficult to find good nature and good work.
To get one with brains and education who is able to organize her work and
save herself time and energy thereby.
To find one who has a pleasant and happy disposition.
Most applicants ask for wages out of all proportion to what they are really
worth.
_ .
Wages higher than competency and independence beyond ability.
To find one honest, good natured, and willing to be told.
To find one capable, honest, and courteous.
To find household workers with self-respect and initiative has been my greatest
difficulty.
Slovenliness and lack of intelligence.
The low intelligence—general low standards of the person—the utter unfa­
miliarity with the principles of cooking that almost every housemaid that comes
my way possesses.
.
To find a woman who could do general housework satisfactorily and take good
care of my children at such times as I need to ask it.
It is difficult to get the correct type of nurse for one’s children; that is, one
who understands health, psychology, and character development of children and,
in addition, is willing to assist with menial tasks.
Finding capable, level-headed girls to assist with children. Finding one
willing to stay in evenings even though we’re to be out for only an hour’s ivalk
or call.
Find it very difficult to secure a woman who cooks well enough to suit us. Lrood
cleaners and first-class laundresses are also rare. The total amount expended to
keep my small house (9 rooms, 2 baths) clean and care for my three small children
(all under 7) seems an awful load in comparison with other expenses.
I have found it difficult to secure one who will be capable a,nd interested in the
general work and cooking and at the same time reliable and kind enough to leave
with the children.
_
To keep help after training them is most difficult.
That any girl unable to do other work feels competent to do housework, and
asks high wages for inefficient work.
Interest in the job and a sense of management and responsibility.
Getting anyone sufficiently satisfactory for what I can pay, and finding anyone
in that group who is dependable.
Carelessness and lack of interest.
_
The most difficult problem I have to handle is one of attitude.




52

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

It is their attitude toward work that causes trouble.
A disinclination on the part of the girls to really earn the high wages they ask
for.
My most trying experience has been with young girls who think themselves
competent after 1 or 2 years in service and ask for wages accordingly.

Minor problems

Other problems of the employer centered around working condi­
tions, housing of the employee, the social life of the employee, and the
worker’s health and personal cleanliness. Many employers realized
the difficulties involved in the long working day but had been unable
to plan a shorter day in their own homes without increasing the cost of
service. Others felt a definite responsibility for the social life and the
personal development of the employee and made a serious attempt to
provide for it. A number considered the problem of health of para­
mount importance and thought it would be highly desirable to have
all employees submit to a physical examination before taking them
into the home. Their experience had been that few employees were
willing to submit to such an examination.
Varied nature of problems

That the problems of the employer may be varied and perplexing
is evident from those listed by an employer whose income was over
$10,000 a year, and whose household consisted of 2 adults and 6
children, all under 16 years of age. Her outstanding problems were
as follows:
1. To get an applicant to consider the job at all. Size of family makes
many unwilling to see place or interview me.
2. To accustom help to husband’s nervous and curt demands and to
reconcile him to necessity for paying enough to procure decent help.
3. Different viewpoints of husband and wife over—
a. Need for help.
b. Kind of help—quality of it and amount of service needed.
c. Importance of tasks.
4. Moving to country for the summer annually and change of help
consequent to same.

Another employer reported her most outstanding problems to be
the following:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
save

Stubbornness.
Desire to escape or refusal to accept blame for errors or failures.
Inability to take or deliver messages at door or telephone correctly.
Extravagance in waste and preparation of food materials.
Carelessness in use and care of tools and utensils.
Waste of gas and light.
Attitude of “They have plenty of money, why should I help them
it?”

To quote the somewhat original statement of a third employer—
It is with the young married people trying to raise the next generation
that the difficulties arise. The utter impossibility of procuring reliable
help in the household is the thing that makes intelligent young parents
limit the number of children to those they can care for without aid. The
question that strikes at the root of our national life is whether our best
young people shall be able to secure help that is absolutely necessary to
make possible a next generation of Americans.




OUTSTANDING DIFFICULTIES OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE

53

SPECIAL PROBLEMS OF THE EMPLOYEE
Difficulties in securing work

How to secure the kind of work she wants and how to be sure that
conditions within the household are such as to make the particular
job a desirable one are among the greatest problems of household
workers. Every possible means of getting a job is taken advantage
of, but more than 80 percent of the 249 employees who reported on
this in the present study, in contrast to 48 percent of the 245 em­
ployers, had a decided preference for one specific method and used
it more frequently than other methods. More employees secured
their jobs through friends and Relatives than by any other means.
The fee-charging private agency was second from the standpoint of
the numbers using it, newspaper advertisements were third, free
private agencies fourth, and former employers fifth. As was the
case with employers, the State employment agency was the least
frequently used. Newspaper advertisements and the fee-charging
private agency were used more commonly by white than by Negro
employees.
The fact that so large a proportion of employees secured jobs
through friends and relatives rather than through employment
agencies seems to be due to the fact that this method insured their
being fairly accurately informed of the details of the prospective job.
Their experience with commercial agencies led them to believe that
the actual situation either was not known or was not presented. The
attitude of many household employees toward employment bureaus
was that expressed by the employee who said, “The agencies and the
employers both are unjust in the way they deceive. Do not tell all
the disadvantages when hiring, nor all the work they intend to put
on the hired one. ” A criticism of employment bureaus made by an
employee who had had a year of college work and who did more
thinking about her job than many girls was as follows: “They should
know the kind of place into which girls are sent, and they should also
investigate the reasons why girls leave their places of employment.”
Hours

In order to obtain the opinion of the workers as to the most out­
standing disadvantages of their job, they were asked what one change
other than wages they would suggest to make more women and girls
want to go into housework. The change that the greatest number of
employees desired was a change in the length of the working day.
Of the 218 employees reporting on the question, 61 percent thought
that more women and girls would want to go into household employ­
ment if a greater amount of free time were provided. The importance
of definite working hours and free time to these wage-earning women
was emphasized by the fact that more than one half of the full-time
employees who had also done housework by the day or hour considered
as a definite advantage the regular hours of work that such employ­
ment provided.




54

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Table 44.—Changes suggested by full-time women employees to make household

employment a more desirable occupation, by race
Women reporting
Condition that should be changed

Kace

Number
Total..............................
Hours.. ________ ____ ____
Amount and character of work demanded_____
Treatment by employer_____________ .
Attitude of others toward it______________
Living condition________ ___________
No change desired_______________ _

Percent

218

100.0

135

83

133
28
15
14
6
22

12.8
6.9
6.4
2.8
10.1

15
11
13
2
20

13
4

White

Negro

4
2

Free time

As to the question concerning the free time desired, much variation
was found among the 243 employees reporting. The findings show
that more than three fifths desired from 1 to 2 hours for rest in the
afternoon and more than 2% times as many wanted 2 hours as wanted
1. About 45 percent wished free time every evening. Nearly one
sixth desired 2 or 3 evenings or an occasional evening off. Nearly
three tenths desired either 1 whole day or 2 afternoons and evenings a
week off, and about one fifth desired 1 whole day or 1 day beginning
after breakfast and 1 afternoon and evening off. Ten percent wanted
2 whole days off or 2 days beginning after breakfast. Some employees
desired all day Sunday off more than any other time and were willing
to forego all free time during the week, except that for necessary shop­
ping, and so on, if it were possible to have it. Others were willing to
forego free time on Thursday if they could have 2 hours off every
afternoon and every evening off.
The attitude of one employer toward a free Sunday for the worker
is expressed in the following statement:
Sunday for the housewife with a family is the most exhausting day in the
week—no domestic service and always a large family at home. The' general
housework girl expects two afternoons a week—Thursdays, and Sundays after
dinner. This is a discrimination against the housewife. One day a week from
10 a.m. to midnight ought to be sufficient.

Fortunately all employers did not consider such an amount ample.
Many realized that good work and good nature often are dependent
upon a sufficient amount of wholesome recreation. One employer
gave 1 full day and 3 evenings off each week and every other Sunday
all day. Another said her employees had abundant time off—no
evenings on duty and many extra free days. A third gave 2 weeks’
vacation, 2 afternoons and evenings off weekly, also the afternoon and
evening on all legal holidays. Hours of service frequently were given
as from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or from 7 a.m. until after dinner served at
6:30. Many employers planned an afternoon rest period for their
employees. One said, “I insist that my help have from 1 to 2 hours
quiet and rest in their own room each day. I do not get it, but it
may be my fault.” Another employer planned an hour each after­
noon for rest and another hour out of doors for her employees. Still
another said, “I expect my general maid to have a couple of hours in
the afternoon for herself, but some don’t manage that way. If I help
her, I have to do more each time.”




OUTSTANDING DIFFICULTIES OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE

55

In spite of the good intentions of the employers, difficulty was expe­
rienced by the employee in being able to plan on her free time begin­
ning at a specified time, or even in being sure of it at all. One em­
ployee said she left a job because every Thursday her employer found
some excuse to keep her in. One week the dressmaker was there,
another she had guests for luncheon, and the third she planned food
requiring a long time for preparation. This last was too much for
the employee; she left that day.
Table 45.—Amount of free time desired by full-time women employees, by race
Race
Period and amount of free time desired

Total.............................. ..........-..............................................—
Afternoon:
1 hour____________________ ________---------------------------2 hours__________ _______ __________ ________ -.......... .......
Time desired but amount not indicated_________ ____ ___
None indicated---------- --------------------------------------- --------None desired_________________________________________
Evening:
Every evening beginning between 7 and .8_______________
Every evening, time not specified----- --------.-----------------2 or 3 evenings---------------------------------------- ------------- -----An occasional evening---------- --------------------------------------None indicated---------- -----------..---------- -----------------------None desired_________________________________ ________
Weekly free time'
1 whole day or after breakfast and 1 afternoon and evening.
1 whole day only---------------- ----------------------------------------2 afternoons and evenings___________________-.............. ..
1 afternoon and evening--------- ------ ------------------------------2 whole days or after breakfast----------------- -------------------1 whole day and 1 afternoon-------------- ------------ --------------2 afternoons__________________________________________
1 afternoon and 1 afternoon and evening------------------------All other_______________ ______________ _____________
Not reported..................... .................. ............ -................ ..........

Women
reporting

White

Negro

243

153

90

43
108
2
87
3

27
63
2
60
1

16
45

44
64
33
7
92
3

29
46
18
6
54

16
18
15

45
32
32
27
23
20
5
4
33
22

23
18
19
20
14
11
5
1
26
16

22

27
2

1

38
3
14
13
7
9
9
3
7

6

Amount and character of work demanded

Another change in household employment suggested by employees
was relative to the amount and character of the work demanded. Of
the 218 employees reporting, 13 percent suggested changes that were
classified under this head as the most essential change necessary to
make housework a more desirable occupation. The opinion current
among general workers was that washing windows, particularly on
the outside, and heavy cleaning should not be a part of their duties.
As one worker said, “That’s a man’s job. ” Another considered it too
much for the already full schedule of the general worker. The younger
workers particularly disliked scrubbing, and all workers felt that to
have the responsibility of the children at the same time that they had
other duties was adding unnecessarily to the burden of their work.
Many stated, however, that they did not mind the care of children
when they had nothing else to do, though to be expected to use what
otherwise might be an hour in the afternoon for relaxation to take the
baby for an airing seemed an imposition. One 14-year-old mother’s
helper, who had the responsibility of the home while the mother
worked, also had the care of the baby during the night, with special
instructions that the mother’s rest was not to be disturbed. Her
wage was $5 a week.




56

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

Attitude of others toward the work and those engaged in it
About 6 percent of the employees studied desired a change in “the
attitude of others toward the occupation and those engaged in it.”
White employees were more conscious of this need than were the
Negroes. Only one Negro worker suggested this change, whereas
10 percent of the white workers suggested it.
Seven percent of the employees thought that if the employer’s
treatment of the household worker was changed, the occupation
would be a more desirable one. They felt that the employer did not
appreciate the fact that the employee frequently put in what she
considered a great deal of extra time. Many also resented the fact
that they were not permitted to have guests. The workers felt that
this privilege should be theirs and that some place other than the
kitchen should be provided in which to visit with their friends. One
employee thought houseworkers should be treated “like they are
human, not slaves.” Another expressed a similar idea when she
said, “Most employers are not really interested in their employees as
individuals.” Many objected to being referred to as “maid”, and
of being called by their first names.
Table 46.—Desire of full-time women employees concerning direction and super­
vision of work, by age
Women
reporting

Age of employees desiring specified type
of direction and supervision

Type of direction and supervision
Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Under
18
years

18 to
24
years

Total.......................... ............................ .......

241

100.0

43

64

114

19

1

General directions and general supervision___
Detailed directions and general supervision.
Detailed directions and close supervision____
General directions and close supervision..........

161
50
21
9

66.8
20.8
8.7
3.7

22
12
4
5

49
8
6
1

79
25
8
2

10
5
3
1

1

25 to 45 years Age not
44
and
re­
years
over ported

.............

A number of the employees objected to the way in which directions
for work were given, and especially did they resent being “bossed”
by someone who knew little either about what needed to be done or
how it should be done. Of 241 employees, two thirds preferred gen­
eral directions concerning the work to be done and general supervision
of it, as contrasted with 9 percent who felt the need of detailed direc­
tions and close supervision. About one fifth preferred that the em­
ployer give detailed directions concerning the work but only general
supervision of it. To the worker, close supervision by the employer
is indicative of a lack of confidence in her ability or her trustworthi­
ness. This intensifies any feeling of inferiority that she may have.
A common criticism on the part of the employer is that the household
worker has a feeling that she knows it all and has no desire to learn or
improve in her work. It is possible that this attitude is a part of a
defense mechanism against being considered inferior not only socially
but even in her work, and that if the employer understood the
psychology of the situation her reaction and method of dealing with
it would be quite different.




OUTSTANDING DIFFICULTIES OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE

57

Living conditions

Three percent of the employees felt the need of changes in living
conditions. A Negro worker, a high-school graduate, and more
intelligent than the average, said, “They want capable, efficient girls,
but don’t think a clean, sanitary, pleasant room is necessary. ”
No change desired

Ten percent of the employees reporting were satisfied with their
jobs and desired no change. They liked to do housework and
beyond that had given little thought to the question of whether it
might be made a more desirable occupation.
Table 47.—Number of full-time women employees who had done other work and

number who planned to do other work at some future time, by race
Women
reporting

Race

Had done other
work

Planned to do other
work

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Total..................................................... .......... ..........

236

133

56.4

105

44.5

White..................................................... ............ ............. Negro----- ----------------------------------- ------ ----------------

148
88

67
66

45.3
76.0

71
34

48.0
38.6

Desirability of household employment as a job

The attitude of the workers themselves toward household employ­
ment as a desirable means of earning a livelihood is indicated by their
plans for future work and whether or not they have done other work
in the past. Of 236 full-time employees reporting, nearly three fifths
had done work other than housework, and well over two fifths planned
to do other work in the future.
Not quite two fifths of the Negroes, in contrast to almost one half
of the white employees, were planning to leave household employ­
ment for some other field of work. Office work chiefly, followed by
factory work and nursing, were the fields mentioned the most fre­
quently by white employees, though all the numbers were small (15,
8, and 7, respectively). Four Negro workers in each case mentioned
beauty parlor, dressmaking, and tea-room or restaurant work. More
than one fifth of the entire group planning to do other work were un­
decided as to what work they would do.
Table 48.—Kinds of work employees planned to do in the future, by race
[236 employees reporting]
Women planning to do other
Total

White

Negro

i 105




34

15
8
7
5
3
2
5

1
3
1
3
4
4

4
1
16
23
1 131 women did not plan to change their work.

71

16
11
8
8
7
6

1
8
17

8
6

4

58

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

SUMMARY
Summarizing the problems of employers and employees as shown
by the study, it appears that employers were mainly concerned with
the following:
1. Lack of training and efficiency on the part of the employee.
2. The attitude of the employee toward her work, her associates,
and her employer.
3. Difficulty in securing employees with desirable personality
traits.
4. The cost of service and turnover.
5. Inadequate records, references, and supply of workers avail­
able at employment bureaus.
Problems of importance to only a small proportion of employers
related to the health and personal cleanliness of the worker and to
the planning of the working day so that the household was well pro­
vided for and the worker had sufficient time for recreation.
Employees were concerned with these:
1. Difficulties in securing work.
2. Hours.
3. The amount and character of the work demanded.
4. The treatment they received from their employers.
5. The attitude of others toward them and their work.
6. Living conditions.




APPENDIX—SCHEDULE FORMS
EMPLOYER SCHEDULE
[Strictly anonymous and confidential]
I. Residence: House---------- Apartment.............. Number of rooms, excluding bath_______
Number of bathrooms
II. Husband’s occupation-------------------------- Wife's occupation or activities, other than housekeeping,
to which she devotes at least half her time___ ______ ________
Number of years of housekeeping experience
III. Total annual family income (check nearest approximation):
Less than $5,000 ______ $5,000 to $10,000 _______ Over $10,000 ___..........
IV. Number in family: Adults 16 years and over______ Children under 2
2 to 7
8 to 15 ...............
Number who require extra care: Chronic invalids and aged_______
V. Check method usually used in securing employees:
State or city employment agencies______ Newspaper ads
Private employment agencies:
Fee-charging______
Through friends
Free ____________
Through employees
Do you interview applicants personally before engaging?
Do you require references from former employers?
Do you prefer them oral?or written?
VI. Check race preference: White, native born ........ .
Foreign born_________ Negro___ _
Other (specify)______ No preference .............
VII. Number in order of importance to you, traits you consider desirable in a household employee, giving
same number to those of equal importance. Check those you seldom find.
Ability to follow directions.
Neatness in appearance___
Kindness to children_____
Loyalty---------Initiative___ _________
Knows her place_________
VIII.

Number in order of degree of need, periods during which you desire services of household employee*
Give same number to those of equal need. Hours are only approximate; indicate change i*
desired.
Periods

Week days

Sundays

Periods

Does it suit your needs better to have employees live in?........ .
IX.

Week days

Sundays

or out?

Number in order of degree of need, branch or branches of household work for which you desire house
hold assistance. Give same number to those of equal importance.
Food preparation ..............
Food serving______
Daily care of house..............
Weekly cleaning..............
Washing---------Ironing...........
Washing dishes ..............

Weekly mending
Daily care of children
Staying with children: Afternoons ..............
Evenings
Staying in house to answer bell, to receive packages,
etc...............

X. Check one who assumes the major responsibility for—

Tasks

Preparing meals—...............




Member
of family Employee

Tasks

Member
of family Employee

Efficient arrangement of
working units_____ ____
Determining need of work­
ing tools................................

59

00

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

XT. Total number of persons now in your employ...... ........
Number employed by the day, hour, oT other part-time basis...............
Branches of work in which employed................. ...................
Give the following information for women now employed by you on a full-time weekly basis.
Check wherever possible:

Employee
Information
I

II

III

IV

1. Give title of each employee, i.e., cook, general worker, etc....................
2. Check:
Native-born white.......................................... .............................
Foreign-born white......... ................................... ...........
Negro_____ ____ _______ ___ ____ _____________
Other (specify)____________ ______ _________
3. Give approximate age of worker........................
4. Wages paid per week___...
Check if include:
Room............................................................................
1 meal a day............................................ ................. .
2 meals a day______ _______ ________ _______ ______
3 meals a day____ ____________________ _____
5. Give approximate length of time each has been with you..............
6. Check training and experience when engaged:
Meager............ ............ ................. ........... ..........................
Adequate..................................................................................
Superior........................................................................................
Does one of the workers whom you employ on a weekly basis do the washing?
Household.............. Personal---------- The ironing? Household............. Personal
XII. Check quality of service of present employees in each of the following:
Employee
Task

I
Good

Fair Poor Good

II

III

IV

Fair Poor Good

Fair Poor Good

Fair Poor

Cooking............................
Serving.__ __________
Washing dishes......... .
Cleaning...... ...................
Washing_________ _
Ironing______ ____ ___
Mending_____ _____
Care of children...........
Do you find it necessary to train new employees in proper methods of performing certain
tasks?.............. Which?.............................................................. .....................................
^
Would you be willing to pay a higher wage if you could secure more’highiy skilled workers?""”"—..
XIII. How much general education do you think a household employee should have?
Sixth grade---------- Eighth grade.............. High school
Do you think special training essential?..........- or are apprenticeship and experience adequate?
XIV. What in your experience have been the most outstanding problems connected with household
employment?




EMPL0YE7i£ SCHEDULE
[Strictly confidential]
. Country of birth .................................... Raoe .......................... Age .............. Country of mother'*
birth ........................................... Country of father’s birth ..................................................................
Single................. Married................... Widowed.................. Divorced or separated..................
Ages of children...................................... -....................... -......................................
II. Age left school .............. Year completed: Grade........ .
High school---------- College---------Where did you learn to do housework? In your own home ..............; in the homes in which you
have worked........ .........; in special classes at school or elsewhere_________ Which helped you
most? 1................ 2............... 3..........
III. Experience:
A. Number of years in housework..............
Please give the following information for the last two places at which you have worked.
Check wherever possible.
Places employed
Information
Present

One pre­
ceding

B.

Length of time without work after leaving last place....................................
Have you ever tried housework by the day or hour?_____ What were the advantages?__

C.

Disadvantages?...............................
What other work have you done?
Number of years

Kind

Are you planning to return to one of the above lines of work later?
Which?............................—............................... ................ .............. ...........
Are you planning on going into some other work?---------- What?
IV.

V.

How do you usually get places in housework?
State or city employment agencies_______
Newspaper ads-----Private employment agencies:
Fee-charging..............
Friends and relatives
Free______________
Former employers ...
Number 1, those traits you want most in the person you work for; those next, 2; etc. If two traits are
of the same importance give them the same number. Check traits you seldom find.

Fairness..
PatienceKindness.

Courteousness.
Friendliness __
Good nature. .

Generosity___
Punctuality—.

VI. Which do you like best: 1. To have the person you work for give detailed directions.............or general
directions only?- 2. Give your work close supervisionor general supervision
only?




61

62

HOUSEHOLD EMPLOYMENT IN CHICAGO

VII. Number the work you like best, 1; the work you like next best, 2; etc.
well give them the same number. Check those you can do best.

If you like two things equally

Daily care of house_____________________
Daily care of children___________________
Staying with children: Afternoons_______
_
,
Evenings_________
Staying in the house to receive packages,
to answer the bell, etc_________________

Washing dishes___________
Weekly mending__________
Washing______ __________
Ironing_____________ ___

VIII. What hours would you like free week days? _
Would you rather live in?or out? _
IX. Is the person you work for good, fair, or poor in the following?

Sundays?

Employer
Duties

Present
Good

Fair

One preceding
Poor

Good

Fair

Poor

Planning daily work.. _____________ ___
Planning weekly work_________ ____ ___
Giving directions clearly______________
Providing good tools for work...______
Arranging kitchen conveniently_________
Judging time necessary for each piece of
work__________ _____ _ ____________
Knowing how work should be done______
X. Do you have a daily plan of work?---------- Weekly plan?.............. Do you plan your own daily
work?---------- Weekly work?---------- What, if anything, makes it hard to carry out your
plans?.............................................................................. ......................................................... ..............................
Do you talk over problems of time and working tools with the person you work for? IIIIIII
XI. Are you asked to do things you do not consider your job?_______ What are they? _____ _____
Has the agreement, as you understood it at the time you were hired, been lived up
If not, how has it been broken?______ ______ ______ ..........................................................................

I

XII. If you could change one thing, other than wages, about housework to make more women and girls
want to go into it, what would you change?--_____
XIII. Remarks:______________________________________________________




O


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102