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Bulletin of the Women's Bureau
No. 220


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C.
Price 10 cents

United States Department of Labor,
Women’s Bureau,

Washington, October 31, lOlfl.
Sir: I have the honor to present a report on the need for old-age
insurance for household workers. This report was written in 1945, by
Mary V. Robinson, then Chief of the Public Information Division, and
was first issued in mimeographed form. Due to the many demands
for information concerning conditions of household employment, it
has been decided to have this report printed for wider distribution.
Necessary revisions have been made in the various sections to bring
the report up to date.
Respectfully submitted.
Frieda S. Miller, Director.
Secretary of Labor.







The Need for Coverage
The Question of Wages---------------------- ----------------------------------------------Training and Employment Problems
Booby Traps on the Security Front
The Burden of Family Responsibilities-----------------------------------------------Lack of Legal Safeguards

50 00

Letter of Transmittal


Most workers and most types of workers are covered by the old-age
insurance system set up under the Social Security Act by the Congress
in 1935. A notable exception are household employees. To extend
such protection to these workers is an essential step in efforts to plug up
loopholes making for insecurity in the country’s economic fabric.
Such a step would not mean “charity” or “relief.” It would be a good
investment for all concerned—the household worker, the housewife, the

Household employment is a major occupational field for women in
this country. This statement may be challenged by harassed house­
wives unable to secure a worker to assist with domestic duties. Or it
may be met with incredulity by families, forced by the lack of such
help to adapt themselves to new and less comfortable patterns of home
living. But the fact that there is still a relatively large number of
household workers is evidenced by census statistics.
Through decades up to 1940 the census indicated, in general, a
mounting number of job seekers who found in this field a means of
livelihood, as more and more women faced the need for self-support,
as more and more families reached income levels permitting the hiring
of household help.
By 1940 domestic service in homes was the largest single occupa­
tional field for women, accounting for more than 2,000,000 workers, of
whom over 90 percent were women. By 1944 there had been a wartime
exodus of some 400,000 women household employees to factory or other
work. Some, in response to a patriotic urge or to a desire to escape to
“greener pastures,” entered war plants. Others seized the long-coveted
opportunity to step easily into public housekeeping jobs or to go into
other service or manufacturing industries concerned with civilian
Even so, by July 1947 there still remained the sizable number of
1,784,000 household workers, according to an estimate of the Bureau
of the Census. How will the curve turn next year and in the future ?




Will it swing upward again as so many homemakers hope, in order to
meet their urgent needs? Or will it continue downward, adding to
the difficulties of these housewives and mothers?

Household employment is obviously a service of vital importance,
because of its contribution to the health and happiness of families, the
convenience and comfort of homes. Certainly workers who prepare
food, launder clothes, keep households clean and attractive, care for
children, old people, or invalids, and perform numerous tasks that oil
the daily routine of existence are engaged in socially worth-while
services, which not only promote the well-being of the household but
contribute to the welfare of the community.

It’s a truism that the demand for competent household workers
always exceeds the supply. This was true before the war, and even
during the depression of the 1930’s. In the war period the shortage of
satisfactory household help worked a very real hardship on many
women and their families. As war and postwar job opportunities in
other industries attracted more and more of the “perfect jewels” of
domestic workers, the untrained and heretofore unemployables among
such applicants became conspicuous but inadequate makeshifts.

Why are so many homes and families suffering through inexperi­
enced or unattainable workers ? Why is there a decided tendency for
competent women to go into household employment only as a last
resort? Why did trained and able workers leave the field with
avidity when the war offered them alternatives? It is not that the
work is necessarily distasteful to women as job seekers. In fact,
many say they would prefer it to factory or other kinds of employ­
ment if the conditions were different. No; the answers have deeper
roots—roots whose ramifications are in the social and economic struc­
ture of our early history. The answers are concerned also with a
hang-over from a past era—the social stigma, which unfortunately
in the minds of many people still attaches to this field—and with
the lack of standards all along the line—standards for training, stand­
ards of employment, standards of work performance, and legal stand­
ards to safeguard the workers.
This report concentrates on one of the legal needs—protection
through old-age insurance—and discusses the economic need of house­
hold workers for these benefits.




Household workers, because they are now outside the old-age and
survivors insurance system, face the possibility of a precarious exist­
ence in the last miles of their life journey. It is demoralizing to fear
the prospect of having to weather the last rainy day of all without
a protecting umbrella. Certainly, household workers have as great
need as other types of workers for economic safeguards, including
that of old-age and survivors insurance.
In the new era in which we live, much of the older form of security
afforded some household workers who lived in the employer’s home
and were regarded as faithful retainers is gone. Patterns for house­
hold employment have altered strikingly, together with other de­
velopments in our changing civilization, typified by the greater mo­
bility of our present-day population, the increased trend toward urban­
ization and smaller homes, and the growing use of labor-saving devices
in the household. Many household workers now live away from their
place of employment, and increasing numbers of them work on a part­
time or day basis.
While some employers of household workers may still assume the
responsibility for their care in old age, this is generally impossible.
Furthermore, such dependency is unfair to both the employer and the
employee. Today, many of the latter—lacking eligibility for old-age
insurance, for which, if included in the system, they would make a
contribution—face the alternative of going “on relief,” the cost of
which must be borne by the community. True, some of these workers
can and do save on their own initiative, but their savings, through no
fault of their own, are frequently swept away or used up prematurely.
Old-age benefits should come to household workers under the old-age
and survivors insurance program as a matter of right.
As do other kinds of workers, they need to provide systematically
and safely during their earning years for their old age and survivors.
Yet, it is especially difficult for the rank and file of household em­
ployees to save adequately, if they must rely solely on their own

First, it is of interest to point out that household workers, when they
shift temporarily to covered employment, frequently make contribu­
tions under the old-age and survivors insurance program. Though



they are then taxed for this type of insurance at the same rate as other
workers, their periods of covered employment are often too short or
too infrequent to enable them to meet the requirement of at least the
minimum amount of time in such occupations to achieve an insured
status. Thus only rarely do they obtain actual protection under the
A survey of white household workers in Chicago, made by the OldAge and Survivors Insurance Bureau of the Social Security Board,
showed that about 17 of every 100 women had some earnings in covered
employment in the period January 1937-June 1941, but not more than
2.2 percent of all women interviewed had worked continuously and
regularly enough and had received sufficient earnings from covered
employment to build up insured status. Not an encouraging statisti­
cal picture, if it can be taken as at all typical.
But, as already pointed out, the war increased the extent to which
household workers have entered covered employment. The many ex­
household workers employed in factories and other commercial jobs
acquired rights toward insurance benefits, but unless coverage is ex­
tended to household service, many of those who have built up insurance
rights will lose them if they return to household work.

Even more than other types of employees, those in household service
must cope with various conditions making for insecurity. Those in­
volved in a discussion of old-age insurance fall under the following
Wage trends.
Training and employment problems.
Iregularities of employment.
Illness and accidents.
Responsibilities for family support.
Lack of legal safeguards.


The design of one’s living is naturally shaped, to a high degree,
by the amount of one’s income. Almost the first questions asked by
workers seeking a job are: What will it pay me ? Will I earn enough
to live on— and to save for old age and other emergencies ?
The man or woman considering a job in household employment gets
less clear-cut answers than do those applying for a job in a factory,
store, or laundry. The latter applicants are more likely, if they are
regular in attendance, to find in their pay envelopes a definite amount
in dollars and cents, to have a definite hour schedule with pay for
overtime work, and, with increase in skill and experience, they may



hope to earn more money. In many cases they belong to unions that
will help them get their special difficulties adjusted through the
machinery of collective bargaining.
In Gash and in Kind.—The household worker on going into a private
home is generally assured a set cash wage, but faces other uncertainties.
Pay will in part be in the form of meals, and for those who “live in,”
in lodging. Now, a dollar is a dollar any way one looks at it, but a meal
is not always a satisfactory unit of remuneration, especially as the
worker must in general consume it or leave it. As for the proffered
room for ‘ living in,’ the worker may definitely leave it, preferring the
privacy of living in his or her own home.
In the present discussion of old-age insurance, payment “in kind”
has a particular significance. Even when it substantially raises real
wages, it is not expendable for other purposes, and it can’t be saved
up for emergencies such as a jobless old age. Obviously, there is less
flexibility to this form of wage payment. With the full wage in cash,
the workers can juggle their funds better to meet their specific needs,
pooling money for food and shelter with that of other members of the
family to make it go further.
Moreover, the trend toward smaller homes and apartments has
further discouraged—even when the worker is willing—the living-in
practice. For example, in 1944 only about a third of 409 newspaper
advertisements for full-time household workers in the Washington,
D. C., area, analyzed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, asked for a
live-in worker. Common knowledge leads us to believe this one
illustration could be duplicated more or less in many cities.
Studies indicate that household workers who live out may not be
paid more than, if as much as, those who live in, especially where the
housewife prefers the latter arrangement. Many workers will choose
the situation offering a little less wage and a little more independence
and privacy in their way of living. At any rate, representative surveys
of household employment in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington,
D. C., showed that the largest proportion of workers who lived out
were paid lower cash wages than those who lived in and who received,
in addition, both board and room.
Even when household employees are given a fair remuneration in
cash and in kind, their wages are often not sufficient for them to put any
aside for all types of rainy days, particularly for the last uncertain
period of old age. Immediate emergency needs are apt to be robbers
of the fund for care during the more remote declining years.
The Ups and Downs.—Another factor making for a highly spotty
pay situation for household workers is the great variation from the
prewar to the war, and to the postwar period, and from one section of
the country to another. Even in the same community wage rates differ
766399°—48----- 2



considerably from home to home and from time to time. This is due
largely to the catch-as-catch-can tradition typical of this field, where
there is woeful lack of wage standards in relation to skill, experience,
and competency. Two causes of dissatisfaction among workers are the
tendency in many homes to require much overtime with no extra pay
and the failure by some housewives to give reasonable raises in wages
after years of service.
Unfortunately wage studies in this field have been too few and too
scattered to serve as satisfactory yardsticks of trends and possible
standards. However, prior to World War II, low cash wTages were
typical for the most part.

Mention of household workers’ wages during the war inevitably
brought out assertions, and evidence too, of spectacularly high rates
paid by many homemakers. Undoubtedly the general level, which still
prevails to a considerable extent, is the highest ever attained by do­
mestic workers in private homes in this country. Even so, wide varia­
tion in wages still exists, as indicated by such weather vanes as the rates
offered in newspaper “want ads.”
Across the Country—Examples of wages offered household workers
in newspaper advertisements in each of 23 cities in various parts of the
country were examined by the Women’s Bureau early in 1945. They
tell an aresting story of what unusually high wages some of the women
who have stuck to this field were able to make from East to West,
North to South, and also what low wages still prevailed. The weekly
wages ranged from $7.50 to $36 for general household workers, from
$10 to $46 for cooks. Wages were, of course, higher in industrial war
centers than in nonwar areas, or wherever the keen competition of other
fields of employment had to be reckoned with.
The wartime earnings of household employees should not be con­
sidered as a gage of their long-time ability to save for old age and
dependents. But it is to be hoped that a drive toward better standards
all along the line will prevent a relapse to the inadequate prewar pay
received by many workers in this service.
If we draw back the curtain and look for a moment into the period
just before the war, we are reminded that the household workers’ hey­
day in wages has been one of only a few short years.

Over-all Picture from the 19Jfi Census.—The most comprehensive
and most convincing revelation of low earnings of household workers
just before the war comes from no less important a source than the
1940 Census. This shows for the country as a whole median cash earn­
ings of $312 for experienced women household workers employed full
time in such service 12 months in 1939.



The general average, however, tends to be misleading. It discloses
neither the worst nor the best levels. Considerable variation was
found from qne section of the country to another. In Mississippi in
1939 the median was just under $150 a year, and in South Carolina,
Georgia, Arkansas, and Alabama it ranged from $158 to $164. In
only six States—California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York,
Rhode Island, and Connecticut—did women household workers with
12 months of employment in 1939 show median annual cash earnings
of more than $500. The highest median cash earnings—$566—were
reported for women household workers in Connecticut.
I or the benefit of skeptics who doubt that such low wages ever
prevailed, it is well to point out that these medians do not reflect
additional remuneration in the form of room and board where such
existed. Be that as it may, the cash wages of many workers as reported
by the census necessitated substandard living for them and their
families. Much evidence from a number of prewar studies of house­
hold employment exists to corroborate this statement.
Washington—On this score the city of Washington offers a striking
illustration. Compare the median of $20.35 a week, as revealed by a
Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis of the weekly rates offered in a
group of 323 out of 562 Washington newspaper advertisements for
women household workers in the fall of 1944, with the median weekly
earnings of $8.10 for such workers in 1940, according to a YWCA
survey. Of the 564 women included in the latter study, the majority
were Negroes. The median of the week’s cash wages of the full-time
workers living in was $9.35 for the white women and $8.85 for the
These 1940 medians stress the reasons for the exodus of household
workers into war jobs in the Government service or munitions plants
in the Washington area. The rates offered in 1944 underscore the
length to which housewives were forced to go when hard pressed for
household help.
Baltimore.—The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Bureau survey
of Negro household workers in Baltimore in 1941 revealed a far from
roseate picture. The average cash earnings of the women interviewed,
approximately 35 percent of whom were day workers and part-time
workers, were about $330 in 1940. For the women who worked 12
months in that year the average cash earnings were $497.
Chicago.—To turn the spotlight on another part of the country:
The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Bureau made a survey of white
women household workers in Chicago and found that their earnings
for 1940-41 differed but slightly from those reported in Baltimore.
Average cash earnings for all Chicago workers interviewed were about
$415. The women who were employed for 12 months in 1940-41
averaged $485.




With earnings high today or low tomorrow, with the many varia­
tions and vicissitudes that characterize the wages of porkers in this
field, with saving for the future not easily possible—it appears to be
established that household employees have need, just as do other types
of labor, of the strong arm of the law to guarantee their saving for
old age. Thus they could be assured of some means of support if
and when they reach their sixty-fifth milestone, or of some wherewithal
to offer a modicum of security for their survivors.


One of the conspicuous weak spots in the over-all story of household
employment to which all who probe into the problems point a chal­
lenging finger is lack of adequate training, and the haphazard training
at best, for this field. Then comes the inevitable “why,” since this
situation makes for serious difficulties all round. It results in incon­
veniences and annoyance for housewives, lessened opportunity and
increased insecurity for the employees, and greater belief expenditures
by taxpayers for incompetent workers who fall to the down-and-out
The Untrained and Unemployable.—The untrained household
worker is at a great disadvantage on various counts. In efforts to
raise standards both of work performances and of working conditions,
the importance of increasing the worker’s efficiency through training
cannot be overestimated. Many untrained household employees are
unable to meet even the usual standard of work expected of them. As
a result, they all too often have difficulty in holding any one job for
more than a short time, go from job to job, and finally are classified
as “unemployables.”
A State employment office reported that in 1 week in 1937 it was
not able to refer to any of 15 employers who had asked for skilled
and competent domestic workers' one of the 20 persons who had applied
during the week for household jobs but who were obviously inadequate
for such. In January 1937 at least 500 cities faced a shortage of
trained household workers, according to estimates of the United States
Employment Service. Yet in July of the same year 400,000 applicants
describing themselves as household workers were registered in the
active files of public employment offices.

Excellent training schools for household workers might and could
be set up, but if girls and women are to be attracted, they must be
offered other inducements. They must be assured good employment
standards and safeguards similar to those in other fields. Which



comes first—better training- or better employment standards—is like
the hen-or-egg conundrum. Obviously parallel and simultaneous
action along both lines is called for.
The possibilities for a Nation-wide training program for this field
lie within the framework of the public-school system. Particularly
in the State vocational-education s'et-up can training facilities for
domestic skills be made available through use of the Smith Hughes
or George Dean appropriations of the United States Office of Educa­
tion and the Federal-State and/or local grant-in-aid system. The
extent to which such resources are being utilized is shown by the fact
that in 1943-44 approximately 100 schools in 14 States offered some
kinds of courses in domestic service.
The lead in establishing courses to train workers and to improve
employment conditions in this field rests largely with the communities.
In fact, women, whether they are aware of it or not, hold a key to
the situation. As citizens and as members of local organizations they
can be a definite force in having satisfactory courses set up in their
local school system if they make known their desires to secure cooper­
ation from the necessary authorities. Such organizations also can be
effective in developing a broader program by helping to coordinate all
community interests concerned with this field. Such efforts on a Na­
tion-wide scale can help to eliminate the social stigma attached to
household work and lead to a campaign to improve the economic status
of the workers.

In this whole program perhaps the most logical and technically
simple first step is extension of old-age and survivors insurance to the
field of household employment. Such action would prove a long stride
in the direction of progress. It would assure benefits to household
workers everywhere in the country who could meet the eligibility re­
quirements. It would remove at least one of the obstacles to the will­
ingness of women to take training for household occupations. Ancl
it should be an influential factor in leading to more standardized
training throughout the country. It would serve as an impetus to the
establishment of generally better standards in this field. In turn,
when household employment is put on a more standardized basis and
elevated to a higher level on the occupational ladder, a more successful
application of the old-age and survivors insurance system to house­
hold workers will be possible.


A type of “rainy day” most dreaded by workers in any occupational
field is unemployment. Among reasons for extending to household



workers the protection of old-age insurance must be included the toll
taken by unemployment as they travel the route of their working
lives to the mile post where they pass out of the labor market because
they are too old for a job.
The possibility of losing one’s job and not easily finding another
hangs like a sword of Damocles over the heads of many wage earners.
However, for some millions of employees the jobless possibility is
alleviated somewhat by the knowledge of eligibility for unemployment
Household workers cannot look forward to such protection if and
when they lose jobs, since they are not covered by this type of insur­
ance, except to a very minor degree in New York State. They must
face the problem of unemployment as their own responsibility, draw
on their savings to tide them over the emergency—if they have been
able to build up a reserve fund—or find some other means of sustenance
until they locate another job. Thus, the sword of unemployment as it
falls on these workers has a double edge. It not only cuts off their
earnings for present living needs but cuts into savings laid aside for
the future when they will be beyond the age for gainful work.
The argument may be advanced that women in household work are
less harassed by the fear of unemployment than are their industrial
sisters. However, those household workers who are not sufficiently
well trained to meet the needs of many homes tend to go from job to
job, with stretches of unemployment between. Even the well-qualified
workers lose or leave positions for one reason or another and do not
always readily find other satisfactory employment.
In a Depression Period.—When there is much unemployment in
other lines of work, household employees are in an especially vulner­
able position. If employers of household labor lose their jobs, they
may no longer be able to afford such help. Or those employers whose
incomes are reduced may in turn have to cut their household employees’
wages. During the depression of the 1930’s, the competition for
service jobs in private homes became very great, owing to the in­
flux into this field of many women who lost their jobs in factories,
stores, and offices, and of married women not ordinarily employed
whose husbands were unable to find work. The increased number of
applicants in the household labor market—some of whom accepted jobs
for room and board alone—helped not only to bring down the wage
rates but to create considerable unemployment among the regular or
normal workers,.
The Community Pays.—A Women’s Bureau survey, made during the
depression, of over 3,500 unemployed women in 5 cities (Chicago,
Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Paul, and Minneapolis) who were seek­
ing relief showed that the largest proportions of these women had



had jobs in domestic and personal service, the majority in private
Another Women’s Bureau study of unattached women on relief in
Chicago in 1937 revealed the jobless and penniless predicament in
which household workers may find themselves. Of over 600 women
covered by the study, three-fourths were over 40 but less than 65 years
of age. The majority had been self-supporting or financially inde­
pendent. Domestic and personal service, chiefly in private homes, was
the most usual occupation of 60 percent of those who had been em­
ployed. Loss of job, ill health, or other misfortune had driven them
to apply for relief, though they had struggled to find some other way
out of their financial distress before going on relief.
The inadequate earnings reported for many of the women included
in the two studies allowed no reserve for a limited time of unemploy*
ment or illness, much less for any steady maintenance for those who
suddenly found themselves jobless at too advanced an age to hope ever
to find work again. What a boon would coverage by the old-age insur­
ance system be to such women if they knew that at their sixty-fifth
birthday they would receive at least a small monthly payment, which
would be neither relief nor charity but the fruit of their own labors.

Accidents are one of the imponderables of life—to which most
individuals give little thought until they find themselves victims. But
that many household workers do have to reckon with such prospects,
facts and figures show. Indeed, accidents as an economic hazard not
only cut into the current savings and ability to earn of many such
workers in any one year, but prove to be another encroachment on
money laid by for old-age requirements.
In the industrial world where workers are exposed not only to
hazards but to a safety program of accident prevention, employees are
more aware of these possible pitfalls. Also, if they do have the mis­
fortune to be injured they have some restitution, in that they are
covered by workmen’s compensation legislation in all but one State.
Such benefits help them to meet the temporary or permanent under­
mining of their economic capacities.
Again household workers find themselves at a decided disadvantage.
The vast majority of such employees are not covered by workmen’s
compensation but are dependent either on their own resources or on
their employers for voluntary financial aid and care in case of injury.
While some employers do assume such responsibility for their workers
injured in the course of duty, it is difficult for other homemakers to
take over this burden—they are not financially able to do so.
By Way of Illustration.—The 1940 YWCA survey of household
workers in Washington, D. C., indicated that the payment of compen­



sation in case of accidents to employees is far from a general practice
in that city. Among 447 employers only 8 percent reported that they
had made such provision for their workers. For 10 percent of the full­
time employees, 8 percent of the part-time workers, and 4 percent of
the day workers such guarantee of benefits had been provided.
Hazards in the Home.—That a home is a place of safety and shelter
is a generally accepted concept, but, the X-ray of statistical research
gives quite a different picture for many households. Home accidents,
occurring to both members of the family and workers on the premises,
are frequent and severe. The National Safety Council reports that
home accidents resulted in death for 32,500 people in 1943. While
such a figure represents about 7 percent increase from 1942, deaths
from industrial accidents dropped 3 percent during that year. In
addition to the home-accident fatalities, the National Safety Council
cites nearly 5,000,000 home injuries in the year, thousands of which
resulted in some permanent disability.
Accidents to workers may result from many conditions, activities,
and materials common to homes, such as: wet or polished floors, loose
rugs; stairs and cellar and attic steps; climbing, reaching, lifting,
carrying; fires, gas, electricity, fuel oils, cleaning chemicals, scalding
fluids; hot irons, sharp utensils, fragile glass and china. A multitude
of other agencies may be discovered by housewives, after workers have
become victims, irrespective of who is to blame.
A Sample Report.—A report on accidents to employees in personalservice trades in 1932-33 by the Ohio Department of Industrial Rela­
tions revealed that the greatest percentage of accidents occurred to
women in household employment. A larger proportion of the injuries
to household workers than to employees in any of the other occupa­
tions caused over i days of disability. Over 70 percent of the women
household employees who were hurt had wages of less than $15 a
In the Long Run.-—Though the household worker may make a com­
plete physical recovery after an accident from which she has suffered
injury, there may be a sequel to the story which all who run do not
read. The nest egg which she had carefully laid by as a means of
subsistence when she found herself laid on the shelf may have been
consumed as a result of the unexpected emergency. Even so, if she
were then entitled to receive old-age benefits she would have some
means of livelihood.

lime out for illness means a complete loss of earnings for many
household employees. Though housewives as employers cannot nec­
essarily be expected to pay wages for labor not received, some defi­



nitely do not dock their workers, especially those long in their employ,
for sickness of short duration.
In the Washington, D. C., 1940 survey on household employment,
28 percent of 489 employers reported gave full wages to their em­
ployees when sick, and 6 employers paid part of the wages. This
policy was extended to part-time and day workers as well as to full­
time help. Among the 136 employees receiving full pay, 103 were full­
time, 22 part-time, and 11 day workers.
Also the employer may occasionally help to pay doctor’s or hos­
pital bills for workers. In the Washington survey, however, few
employers were reported as assuming such responsibilities. Among
491 household employees, only 9 percent had received medical care
wholly at the employer’s expense. Ten percent of the full-time work­
ers, 5 percent of the part-time group, and 6 percent of the day workers
were given free medical care.
With or Without Benefits.—Lacking an inclusive sickness benefit or
health insurance program in this country, individuals must work out
their own solutions of how best to deal with the inroads made by
illness on their resources. Workers in various fields, and even some
in household employment, participate in private schemes that provide
sick benefits.
Double-Barreled Attack.—Illness is often a double-barreled attack
on household workers’ security. Not only do they lose their pay, but
they must also somehow meet the expenses of illness, which are even
more likely than accidents to eat up the nest egg designed by betterplaced individuals for old-age maintenance.
Whatever the cause of illness among workers who have tended to
live close to a bare subsistence level, it is the community that pays—
and pays again when advanced age means no work, no insurance bene­
fits, and often more illness. Thus, on this score, old-age insurance
is a protection not only to the worker but to the taxpayer.

Take a hypothetical, though a not too probable case, of a woman
household worker who has lost no time or money from unemployment,
accidents, or illness, who, as a steady and skilled worker, has received
fair remuneration for her labors throughout her working life, what
is her vista as old age creeps on and job opportunities fade ? Certainly
she is not discouraged if she can boast of sufficient savings in banks or
bonds. But she is more likely to find herself wondering how she can
exist on her slender means, if like many wage-earning women she has
had to help to support dependents and has been able to salt away little,
if any, money for her declining years.




Among employed women in general, the great majority make contri­
butions to their families, Women’s Bureau studies show. Large pro­
portions of single and married as well as widowed women have heavy
financial obligations for children, elderly parents, invalid husbands, or
other relatives. In many instances these burdens vary in inverse ratio
to the size of the woman worker’s pay envelope.
Among women who enter the field of household employment are
likely to be members of underprivileged families to whom these women
must make regular contributions, but the normal support of whom is
too often complicated by abnormal emergency expenditures.
An Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Bureau survey of Negro
women household workers in Baltimore in 1941 revealed that about
one-half of the household workers who wTere employed or seeking work
had dependents. The majority of women with dependents were eithermarried or had been. Thirty-seven percent of the single women had
dependents. About 55 percent of the women with dependents sup­
ported children under the age of 18.
The survey also showed that only about 28 percent of the married
Negro women in Baltimore had husbands who were insured under the
old-age and survivors insurance program at the end of 1940. A similar
survey of white household workers in Chicago showed that less than
half of the married women household workers had husbands who were
insured under this program.

A special analysis of 1930 census data on gainfully employed home­
makers is very revealing of their support of dependents. Of such
women employed away from home, 16 percent of the “servants, wait­
resses, etc.,” were the sole wage earner in their family—a larger propor­
tion than for any other one occupational group. The largest numbers
of families with a woman head, 266,800, were those in which the
homemaker was employed as a “servant, waitress, or allied worker.”
Over a third of the families of women homemakers employed in such
work had a woman head.
Women who are responsible for the maintenance of dependents
shouldn’t have to worry over the uncertainty of some member of the
family coming to their support when they reach old age, or over the
need to apply for relief for themselves or dependents. Domestic work­
ers who have been employed in hotels or restaurants are covered by
old-age and survivors’ insurance. If, however, they have been engaged
in similar work in private households they are not eligible for such
benefits, though as respectable, hard-working, useful citizens they cer­
tainly have a similar right to protection. In fact, such workers fail
to understand their exclusion from the legal safeguard for old-age



The Case for Swrvivors.—Analysis of the family responsibilities of
women at work leads to emphasis on their need for survivors’ insur­
ance. Obviously, when women who are the sole mainstay for members
of a family unable to support themselves succumb to death their de­
pendents—left without insurance or other means—are in desperate
straits. Even when wage-earning women are only partially respon­
sible for family maintenance their death may cause a serious situation.
Since large numbers of household workers do carry such heavy eco­
nomic responsibilities—and seemingly to an even greater degree than
other employed women—it is certainly a short-sighted policy not to
allow household workers, while they are breadwinners, to participate
in a system for building up safeguards not only for their own old age
but for their survivors.

One of the most glaring causes of insecurity to household employees
is the lack of coverage by legal safeguards that apply to workers in
many other occupations. Exclusion from the aid and protection
offered by social and labor legislation is one of the underlying reasons
that make it difficult for household employees to save for emergencies.
Such exclusion is a legitimate reason for complaint among these work­
ers and is a contributory factor in causing this field to remain unstand­
ardized and unattractive to job seekers.

To date 26 States and the District of Columbia have a minimumwage law, but Wisconsin is the only one that has brought household
workers under the protection of minimum-wage rates. In 1947 this
State revised an order previously issued which set minimum rates for
such employees. Similar action is possible in certain other States
under their minimum-wage legislation, but in some States the law
definitely excludes domestic workers in private homes.
Of the 43 States and the District of Columbia which have maximumhour legislation for women, Washington State is the only one that has
passed a law limiting hours for household employees; the legal maxi­
mum is 60 hours a week. To administer such a law requires an edu­
cational campaign to secure compliance and a sufficient appropriation
to prevent violations. Homemakers’ groups are divided on the desir­
ability of legal regulation of hours. The proponents realize that the
long hours required of workers in many homes are one of the great
stumbling blocks to women in this type of employment and the cause
of discontent and labor turn-over. Though the war period has brought
shorter hours for many household employees, there are no generally
established means of holding these gains.




Every State but Mississippi has legislation guaranteeing compen­
sation to industrial workers who become victims of accidents while at
work. But household workers in most States are not guaranteed this
type of protection. Only three States—California, Ohio, and New
York—include household employees under the so-called compulsory
provisions of workmen’s compensation acts. In each of these States
the coverage is limited. For example, Ohio covers only employers of
3 or more persons; the New York law protects workers employed 48
hours a week or more by one employer in cities of 40,000 or over; and
California’s law applies only to household workers employed more
than 52 hours a week by one employer.
Connecticut and New Jersey include domestic service in their cov­
erage, but the employer is not required to take out insurance to guar­
antee payment of claims arising under the law. In Connecticut the
law applies only to employers of five or more persons. In a number
of other States, employers of domestic workers may come under the
workmen’s compensation law, if they choose to do so. When they
do, it is of course, a protection to themselves as well as to their

The Federal wage-hour law assures some measure of security to
millions of workers by setting a floor below which wages may not
fall and a ceiling to hours beyond which overtime rates must be paid.
Coverage of this law, however, is specifically limited to workers en­
gaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for inter­
state commerce, and therefore, since household workers are engaged
in intrastate occupations, the law does not apply to household workers.

New York is the only State that gives any household employees the
guaranty of unemployment insurance, but the law applies only to
employers employing four or more workers. Thus even in this State
the great majority of workers in private homes lack this form of

Indicative of the efforts made by household workers to prepare
for the inevitable rainy day, since the law offers them practically no
helping hand, are data compiled by the Old-Age and Survivors Insur­
ance Bureau. Its survey of Negro women household workers in Balti­
more in 1941 revealed that most of the women interviewed were trying
to provide for some little security through private insurance. Fourfifths of these women had made insurance payments—half of them for



life insurance and half for sickness, accident, or burial insurance.
Most of them had made payments ranging from 25 to 50 cents per
The majority of the Washington, D. C., household workers inter­
viewed in 1940 by the YWCA also carried some type of insurance—
life, burial, accident, or sickness. Some policies offered a combina­
tion of benefits, and some women carried more than one policy. Aver­
age weekly expenditures for this security for Negro workers ranged
from 23 to 78 cents and for white employees from 25 to 62 cents.
Negroes in the lowest weekly wage group paid the highest insurance
premiums. A large number of women in the upper wage levels carried
some kind of insurance.
Such information also illustrates the need to provide legislative
protection that would enable those with lower earnings as well as
the better paid women to be protected under a sound compulsory

As far as the need to extend old-age and survivors insurance to
household workers is concerned, this discussion of legislative safe­
guards might conclude with geometry’s “Q. E. D.” Of all types of
labor legislation in this country, old-age insurance offers itself as a
feasible first step in the effort to build up security for men and women
employed as workers in private homes. If this step is taken, it will
help to promote the interests not only of the household employees and
their families, but of housewives seeking more competent workers
and of communities wanting reductions in the burden of caring for
needy old people.
Thus the measure, requiring only a very small tax from both the
household employees and their employers, would bring widespread
benefits. To summarize, O. A. S. I., if extended to household em­
ployees will help:


To bolster their security, which is undermined by low wages in
many instances, by lack of trade-union benefits and legal
safeguards, by little if any protection against unemployment,
accidents, or illness, by the need to support dependents, par­
tially or wholly.
To protect the workers against a penniless old age and their sur­
vivors against “going on relief.”
To encourage standardization of training and employment con­
To make the field more attractive to job seekers who want em­
ployment covered by good labor standards and legal


monthly. 2 sheets. (Latest statistics on
employment of women; earnings; labor laws affecting women; news items of
interest to women workers; women in the international scene.)


The Outlook for Women in Occupations in the Medical and. Other Health Services,
Bull. 203:
1. Physical Therapists. 14 pp. 1945. 100.
2. Occupational Therapists. 15 pp. 1945. 100.
3. Professional Nurses. 66 pp. 1946. 150.
4. Medical Laboratory Technicians. 10 pp. 1945. 100.
5. Practical Nurses and Hospital Attendants. 20 pp. 1945. 100.
6. Medical Record Librarians. 9 pp. 1945. 100.
7. Women Physicians. 28 pp. 1945. 100.
8. X-Ray Technicians. 14 pp. 1945. 100.
9. Women Dentists. 21 pp. 1945. 100.
10. Dental Hygienists. 17 pp. 1945. 100.
11. Physicians’ and Dentists’ Assistants. 15 pp. 1946. 100.
12. Trends and Their Effect upon the Demand for Women Workers. 55 pp.
1946. 150.
The Outlook for Women in Science. (Astronomy; bacteriology; botany; chemis­
try ; engineering and architecture (including engineering aids and draftsmen) ;
geography; geology; mathematics and statistics; meteorology; physics;
zoology.) Bull. 223. (In press.)
Your Job Future After College. Leaflet. 1947.
Training for Jobs—for Women and Girls. [Under public funds available for
vocational training purposes.] Leaflet 1. 1947.

Earnings of Women in Selected Manufacturing Industries, 1946.

Bull. 219.



Employment of Women in the Early Postwar Period, with Background of Pre­
war and War Data. Bull. 211. 14 pp. 1946. 100.
Women’s Occupations Through Seven Decades. Bull. 218. (In press.)
Women Workers After VJ-Day in One Community—Bridgeport, Conn. Bull.
216. 37 pp. 1947. 150.

Women Workers in Power Laundries. Bull. 215. 71 pp. 1947. 200.
The Woman Telephone Worker [1944], Bull. 207. 28 pp. 1946. 100. Typi­
cal Women’s Jobs in the Telephone Industry [1944], Bull. 207-A. 52 pp.
1947. 150.


Fair Labor Standards Act; Public Contracts Act. 1-sheet summary. Mimeo.
Summary of State Labor Laws for Women. 7 pp. 1947. Mimeo.

State Minimum-Wage Laws and Orders, 1942: An Analysis. Bull. 191.
52 pp. 1942. 200. Supplements through 1947. Mimeo.
State Minimum Wage Laws. Leaflet 3. 1947.
Model Bill for State minimum-wage law for women.
Map showing States having minimum-wage laws. (Desk size; wall size.)

Chart analyzing State equal-pay laws and Model Bill. Mimeo. Also com­
plete text of State laws (separates). Mimeo.
Equal Pay for Women. Leaflet 2. 1947.
Model Bill for State equal-pay law.
Selected References on Equal Pay for Women. 9 pp. 1947. Mimeo.

State Labor Laws for Women, with Wartime Modifications, Dec. 15, 1944.
Bull. 202.
I. Analysis of Hour Laws. 110 pp. 1945. 150.
II. Analysis of Plant Facilities Laws. 43 pp. 1945. 100.
III. Analysis of Regulatory Laws, Prohibitory Laws, Maternity Daws.
12 pp. 1945. 50.
IV. Analysis of Industrial Home-Work Laws. 26 pp. 1945. 100.
V. Explanation and Appraisal. 66 pp. 1946. 150.
State labor legislation enacted in 1945, 1946, 1947. Mimeo.
Unemployment Compensation—How it Works for Working Women. Leaflet.
Map of United States showing State hour laws. (Desk size; wail size.)

International Documents on the Status of Women. Bull. 217. (In press.)
Legal Status of Women in the United States of America.
United States Summary, January 1938. Bull. 157. 89 pp. 1941. 150.
Cumulative Supplement 1938-45. Bull. 157-A. 31 pp. 1946. 100.
Pamphlet for each State and District of Columbia (separates). 50 ea.
Women’s Eligibility for Jury Duty. Leaflet. 1947.

Women Workers in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Bull. 195. 15 pp. 1942. 50.
, Women Workers in Brazil. Bull. 206. 42 pp. 1946. 100.
Women Workers in Paraguay. Bull. 210. 16 pp. 1946. 100.
Women Workers in Peru. Bull. 213. 41 pp. 1947. 100.
Social and Labor Problems of Peru and Uruguay. 1944. Mimeo.


for women’s working conditions, safety and health:
Standards of Employment for Women. Leaflet 1, 1946. 50 ea. or $2 per 100.
When You Hire Women. Sp. Bull. 14. 16 pp. 1944. 100.
The Industrial Nurse and the Woman Worker. Sp. Bull. 19. 47 pp. 1944.



Women’s Effective War Work Requires Good Posture. Sp. Bull. 10. 6 pp.
1943. 50.
Washing and Toilet Facilities for Women in Industry. Sp. Bull. 4. 11 pp.
1942. 50.
Lifting and Carrying Weights by Women in Industry. Sp. Bull. 2. Rev.
1946. 12 pp. 50.
Safety Clothing for Women in Industry. Sp. Bull. 3. 11 pp. 1941. 100.
Supplements; Safety Caps and Shoes. 4 pp. ea. 1944. 50 ea.
Night Work: Bibliography. 39 pp. 1946. Multilith.

Maternity-Benefits under Union-Contract Health Insurance Plans.
19 pp. 1947. 100. '

Bull. 214.


Old-Age Insurance for Household Employees. Bull. 220. (Instant .publication.)
Community Household Employment Programs. Bull. 221. (In press.)
16 reports on women’s employment in war­
time industries; community services; part-time employment; equal pay; rec­
reation and housing for women war workers.
Changes in Women’s Employment During the War. Sp. Bull. 20. 29 pp, 1944.


Women's Wartime Hours of Work—The Effect on Their Factory Performance
and Home Life. Bull. 208. 187 pp. 1947. 350.
Women Workers in Ten War Production Areas and Their Postwar Employ­
ment Plans. Bull. 209. 56 pp. 1946. 150. Why Women Work. Leaflet.
1946. Multilith.
Negro Women War Workers. Bull. 205. 23 pp. 1945. 100.
Employment Opportunities in Characteristic Industrial Occupations of Women.
Bull. 201. 50 pp. 1944. 100.
Employment and Housing Problems of Migratory Workers in New York and
New Jersey Canning Industries, 1943. Bull. 198. 35 pp. 1944. 100.
Industrial Injuries to Women [1945], Bull. 212. 20 pp. 1947. 100.
Women at work (a century of
industrial change) ; women’s economic status as compared to men’s; women
workers in their family environment (Cleveland, and Utah) ; women’s em­
ployment in certain industries (clothing, canneries, laundries, offices, govern­
ment service) ; State-wide survey of women’s employment in various States;
economic status of university women.



Purpose and Functions. Leaflet. 1946.
Write the Women’s Bureau, U. S. Department of Labor, Washington 25, D. C.,
for complete list of publications available for distribution.