C. Helene Barker.

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Business Principles Applied to Housework



Author of _Automobile French_

New York
Moffat, Yard & Company



This little book is not a treatise on Domestic Science. The vacuum
cleaner and the fireless cooker are not even mentioned. The efficient
kitchen devised in such an interesting and clever way has no place in
it. Its exclusive object is to suggest a satisfactory and workable
solution along modern lines of how to get one's housework efficiently
performed without doing it one's self.

If the propositions that she advances seem at first startling, the
writer begs only for a patient hearing, for she is convinced by strong
reasons and abundant experience, that liberty in the household, like
social and political liberty, can never come except from obedience to
just law.





Ignorance and Inefficiency in the Home 1
Difficulty of Obtaining Women to Do Housework 11
The Disadvantages of Housework Compared with Work
in Factories, Stores, and Offices 19



Living Outside Place of Employment 31
Housework Limited to 8 Hours a Day 47
Housework Limited to 6 Days a Week 61
The Observance of Legal Holidays 75
Extra Pay for Overtime 81



Eight Hour Schedules for One Employee 93
Eight Hour Schedules for Two Employees 109
Eight Hour Schedules for Three Employees 121



Ignorance and inefficiency in the home.
Difficulty of obtaining women to do housework.
The disadvantages connected with housework compared
with work in factories, stores, and offices.


The twentieth-century woman, in spite of her progressive and ambitious
theories about woman's sphere of activity, has allowed her housekeeping
methods to remain almost stationary, while other professions and
industries have moved forward with gigantic strides.

She does not hesitate to blazon abroad with banners and pennants her
desire to share with man the responsibility for the administration of
the State, but she overlooks the disquieting fact that in the management
of her own household, where her authority is absolute, she has failed
to convince the world of her power to govern. When confronted with this
accusation, she asserts that the maintenance of a home is neither a
business nor a profession, and that in consequence it ought not to be
compared with them nor be judged by the same standards.

Is it not due perhaps to this erroneous idea that housekeeping is a
failure to-day? For the fact that it is a failure cannot be hidden,
and that it has been a failure for many years past is equally true.
Recent inventions, and labor saving utensils, have greatly facilitated
housework, yet housekeeping is still accompanied with much
dissatisfaction on the part of the employer and the employee.

There are only a few women to-day who regard domestic science in the
light of a profession, or a business, although in reality it is both.
For what is a profession if it be not the application of science to
life? And does not work which one follows regularly constitute a

Many women, however, do not regard housekeeping even as a serious
occupation, and few have devoted as much time, thought, and energy to
mastering the principles of domestic economy as of late years women of
all classes of society have willingly given to the study of the rules
and ever changing intricacies of auction bridge. Some consider their
time too valuable to devote to domestic and culinary matters, and openly
boast of their ignorance. Outside engagements, pleasures, philanthropic
schemes, or work, monopolize their days, and the conduct of the house
devolves upon their employees. The result is rarely satisfactory. It is
essential that the woman who is at the head of any concern, be it a
business, a profession, or a home, should not only thoroughly understand
its every detail, but in order to make it a success she must give it her
personal attention each day for at least a portion of her time.

It is a popular impression that the knowledge of good housekeeping,
and of the proper care of children, comes naturally to a woman, who,
though she had no previous training or preparation for these duties,
suddenly finds them thrust upon her. But how many women can really look
back with joy to the first years of their housekeeping? Do they not
remember them more with a feeling of dismay than pleasure? How many
foolish mistakes occurred entailing repentance and discomfort! And how
many heart-burnings were caused, and even tears shed, because in spite
of the best intentions, everything seemed to go wrong? And why? Simply
because of ignorance and inefficiency in the home, not only of the
employee, but of the employer also.

That an employee is ignorant and unskilled in her work is often
excusable, but there is absolutely no excuse for a woman who has time
and money at her command, to be ignorant of domestic science, when of
her own free will she undertakes the responsibilities of housekeeping.

Nearly all women take interest in the furnishing of their homes, and
give their personal attention to it with the result that as a rule they
excel in household decoration, and often produce marvels of beauty and
taste with the expenditure of relatively small amounts of money.

Marketing is also very generally attended to in person by the housewife,
but she is using the telephone more and more frequently as a substitute
for a personal visit to butcher and grocer, and this is greatly to her
disadvantage. The telephone is a very convenient instrument, especially
in emergency, or for ordering things that do not vary in price. But when
prices depend upon the fluctuations of the market, or when the articles
to be purchased are of a perishable nature, it must be remembered that
the telephone is also a very convenient instrument for the merchant who
is anxious to get rid of his bad stock.

The remaining branches of housekeeping apparently do not interest
the modern housewife. She entrusts them very generally to her employees,
upon whose skill and knowledge she blindly relies. Unfortunately skill
and knowledge are very rare qualities, and if the housewife herself be
ignorant of the proper way of doing the work in her own home, how can
she be fitted to direct those she places in charge of it, or to make a
wise choice when she has to select a new employee? Too often she engages
women and young girls without investigating their references of
character or capability, and when time proves what an imprudent
proceeding she has been party to, she simply attributes the consequent
troubles to causes beyond her control. If the housewife were really
worthy of her name she would be able not only to pick out better
employees, but to insist upon their work being properly done. To-day
she is almost afraid to ask her cook to prepare all the dishes for the
family meals, nor does she always find some one willing to do the family
washing. She is obliged to buy food already cooked from the caterer or
baker, because her so-called "cook" was not accustomed to bake bread and
rolls, or to make pies and cakes, or ice cream, for previous employers,
from whom nevertheless she received an excellent reference as cook. Of
course in cities it is easy to buy food already cooked or canned and to
send all the washing to the laundry, but it helps to raise the "high
cost of living" to alarming proportions, and it also encourages
ignorance in the most important branches of domestic economy.

In spite of the "rush of modern life," a woman who has a home ought to
be willing to give some part of her time to its daily supervision.
Eternal vigilance is the price of everything worth having. If she gave
this she would not have so many tales of woe to relate about the
laziness, neglectfulness, and stupidity of her cook and housemaids.
There is not a single housewife to-day who has not had many bitter
experiences. One who desires information upon this subject has only to
call on the nearest friend.

To the uninterested person, to the onlooker, the helplessness of the
woman who is at the head of the home, her inability to cope with her
domestic difficulties, is often comic, sometimes pathetic, sometimes
almost tragic. The publications of the day have caricatured the
situation until it has become an outworn jest. The present system of
housekeeping can no longer stand. One of two things must occur. Either
the housewife must adopt business principles in ruling her household,
or she will find before many more years elapse there will be no longer
any woman willing to place her neck under the domestic yoke.

If the principles set forth in the following pages can be popularized in
a comprehensive plan of which all the parts can be thoroughly understood
both by the housewife and her employee, ignorance and inefficiency in
the home will be presently abolished.


The present unsatisfactory condition of domestic labor in private houses
is not confined to any special city or country; it is universal. Each
year the difficulty of obtaining women to do housework seems to increase
and the demand is so much greater than the supply, that ignorant and
inefficient employees are retained simply because it is impossible to
find others more competent to replace them.

There is hardly a home to-day where, at one time or another, the
housewife has not gone through the unenviable experience of being
financially able and perfectly willing to pay for the services of some
one to help her in her housekeeping duties, and yet found it almost
impossible to get a really competent and intelligent employee. As a
rule, those who apply for positions in housework are grossly ignorant of
the duties they profess to perform, and the well trained, clever, and
experienced workers are sadly in the minority.

Women and young girls who face the necessity of self support, or who
wish to lead a life of independence, no longer choose housework as a
means of earning a livelihood. It is evident that there is a reason,
and a very potent one, that decides them to accept any kind of
employment in preference to the work offered them in a private home.
Wages, apparently, have little to do with their decision, nor other
considerations which must add very much to their material welfare,
such as good food in abundance, and clean, well ventilated sleeping
accommodations, for these two important items are generally included
at present in the salaries of household employees. Concessions, too,
are frequently made, and favors bestowed upon them by many of their
employers, yet few young girls, and still fewer women are content to
work in private families.

It is a deplorable state of affairs, and women seem to be gradually
losing their courage to battle with this increasingly difficult
question: How to obtain and retain one's domestic employees?

The peace of the family and the joy and comfort of one's home should be
a great enough incentive to awaken the housewife to the realization that
something must be wrong in her present methods. It is in vain that she
complains bitterly, on all occasions, of the scarcity of good servants,
asserting that it is beyond her comprehension why work in factories,
stores, and offices, should be preferred to the work she offers.

Is it beyond her comprehension? Or has she never considered in what way
the work she offers differs from the work so eagerly accepted? Does she
not realize that the present laws of labor adopted in business are very
different from those she still enforces in her own home? Why does she
not compare housework with all other work in which women are employed,
and find out why housework is disdained by nearly all self supporting

Instead of doing this, she sometimes avoids the trouble of trying
to keep house with incompetent employees by living in hotels, or
non-housekeeping apartments; but for the housewife who does not possess
the financial means to indulge herself thus, or who still prefers home
life with all its trials to hotel life, the only alternative is to
submit to pay high wages for very poor work or to do a great part of the
housework herself. In both cases the result is bad, for in neither does
the family enjoy the full benefit of home, nor is the vexatious problem,
so often designated as the "servant question," brought any nearer to a

The careful study of any form of labor invariably reveals some need of
amelioration, but in none is there a more urgent need of reform than in
domestic labor in private homes.

It is more for the sake of the housewife than for her employee that a
reform is to be desired. The latter is solving her problem by finding
work outside the home, while the former is still unduly harassed by
household troubles. With a few notable exceptions, only those who are
unqualified to compete with the business woman are left to help the
householder, and the problem confronting her to-day is not so much how
to change inefficient to efficient help, but how to obtain any help at

The spirit of independence has so deeply entered into the lives of
women of all classes, that until housework be regulated in such a way
as to give to those engaged in it the same rights and privileges as are
granted to them in other forms of labor, the best workers will naturally
seek employment elsewhere.


Housework, when carefully compared with work performed by women in
factories, stores, and offices, shows to a remarkable degree how many
old fashioned ways of conducting her household still cling to the modern
housewife. The methods that made housekeeping a success in the time of
our ancestors are not adapted to the present needs of a society in which
women who earn their own living are occupying so much more important
positions than formerly. Large stores and factories, requiring the
coöperation of many employees, have done more to open new avenues of
work for women than could have been dreamed of in former times, when it
was the custom for each family to produce at home as much as possible,
if not all, that was necessary for its own consumption.

Women, as a rule, are not taught self reliance, and many who hesitate
to leave their homes to earn a livelihood, find that by doing work in
stores, factories, or offices, they are not utterly separated from their
families. The work may be harder than they anticipated and the pay
small, but there is always the hope of promotion and of a corresponding
increase of wages. Business hours are frequently long, but they are
limited, and after the day's work is over, the remainder of the
twenty-four hours is at the disposal of the employees, who can still
enjoy the happiness and freedom associated with the life of their own
social circle. Besides they have one day out of seven as a day of rest,
and many legal holidays come annually to relieve the overstrain.

With housework it is very different. The woman who accepts the position
of a household employee in a private home must usually make up her mind
to leave her family, to detach herself from all home ties, and to take
up her abode in her employer's house. It is only occasionally, about
once a week for a few hours at a time, that she is allowed to make her
escape. It is a recognized fact that a change of environment has a
beneficial effect upon every one, but a domestic employee must forego
this daily renewal of thought and atmosphere. Even if she does not know
that she needs it in order to keep her mental activities alive, the
result is inevitable: to one who does nothing but the same work from
early morning until late at night and who never comes in contact with
the outside world except four times a month, the work soon sinks to mere

As to promotion in housework it seems to be almost unknown. Considering
the many responsible positions waiting to be filled in private families,
nothing could be more desirable than to instil into one's employees the
ambition to rise. An employee who has passed through all the different
branches of domestic science, from the lowest to the highest in one
family, must be far better fitted to occupy the highest position in
that family than one who applies for the position with the training and
experience gained only in other families where the mode of living may be
very different. Since there is no chance of promotion and in consequence
of receiving better pay, the domestic employee is often tempted to seek
higher wages elsewhere, and thus the desire "to make a change," so
disastrous to the peace of mind of the housewife, is engendered in her

In domestic labor the hours of work are longer than in any other form of
employment, for they are unlimited. Moreover, instead of having one day
out of seven as a day of rest, only half a day is granted beginning
usually about three o'clock in the afternoon, or even later. And legal
holidays bring no relief, for they are practically unknown to the
household employee. The only way women engaged in housework in private
families can obtain a real holiday is by being suddenly called away
"to take care of a sick aunt." There is an old saying containing certain
words of wisdom about "all work and no play" that perhaps explains the
dullness so often met with in domestic help.

The hardest thing to submit to, however, from the point of view of the
woman employed in housework, is the lack of freedom outside of working
hours. This prevents her from taking part in her former social life.
She is not allowed to go out even for an hour or two every day to see
her relatives and friends. To ask them to visit her in her employer's
kitchen is not a very agreeable alternative either to herself or her
employer, and even then she is obliged to be on duty, for she must still
wear her uniform and hold herself in readiness to answer the bell until
the family for whom she works retires for the night.

With such restrictions it is not surprising that the majority of
women feel that they are losing "caste" if they accept positions in
private families. There are two more causes to which this feeling of the
loss of caste may be attributed. One is the habit of calling household
employees by their first name or by their surname without the prefix of
"Miss"; the other is the custom of making them eat in their employer's
kitchen. These are minor details, perhaps, but nevertheless they count
for much in the lives of women who earn their own living, and anything,
however small, that tends to raise one's self respect, is worthy of
consideration. Perhaps, too, while the word "servant" (a noble word
enough in its history and its moral connotation) carries with it a
stigma, a sense of degradation, among the working women, it should
be avoided.

Briefly summed up, then, the present disadvantages of housework compared
with work in factories, stores, and offices, are as follows:

Enforced separation from one's family.
Loss of personal freedom.
Lack of promotion.
Unlimited hours of work.
No day of rest each week.
Non-observance of legal holidays.
Loss of caste.

In the present comparison of housework with work in factories, stores,
and offices, a recital of the advantages of domestic service, even under
the present method of housekeeping, must not be omitted, for such
advantages are important, although unfortunately they do not outweigh
the present disadvantages.

To the woman whose home ties have been disrupted by death or discord,
and to the newly arrived immigrant especially, housework is a great
boon, inasmuch as besides good wages, all meals and a room to sleep
in are given her. Moreover housework is the only form of labor where
unskilled work can command high wages. This, however, is much more
fortunate for the employee than for her employer.

Housework in itself is certainly _not worse_ than any other kind of
manual work in which women are engaged; it is often more interesting and
less fatiguing. It also helps a woman more than any other occupation to
prepare herself for her natural sphere of life: - that of the home maker.
A girl who has spent several years in a well ordered family helping to
do the housework, is far better fitted to run her own home intelligently
and on economic lines than a girl who has spent the same number of years
behind a counter, or working in a factory or an office.

Again, work in a private house is infinitely more desirable, from the
point of view of the influence of one's surroundings, than daily labor
in a factory or store. The variety of domestic duties, the freedom of
moving about from one room to another, of sitting or standing to do
one's work, are much to be preferred to the work that compels the worker
to stand or sit in one place all day long.

If it be admitted, then, that housework is in itself a desirable and
suitable occupation for women who must earn their living by manual
labor, it can not be the work itself, but the conditions surrounding it
that make it so distasteful to the modern working woman.



Living outside place of employment.
Housework limited to eight hours a day.
Housework limited to six days a week.
The observance of legal holidays.
Extra pay for overtime.


There are many housewives who are very much opposed to the adoption
of a plan enabling household employees to live outside their place of
employment. They claim that it is wiser to keep them under constant
supervision day and night in order to prevent the introduction of
disease or the acquisition of bad habits.

There is more risk of disease being introduced into the home, and of bad
habits being contracted by allowing one's children to associate with
other children in schools, public or private, and by letting them play
in the streets and public parks, where they mingle with more or less
undesirable companions, than by having the housework performed by
employees who come each day to their work and return to their homes
at night when their duties are over. Nevertheless no sensible parents
would keep their children shut up in the house, only allowing them to
go out of doors for a few hours once a week, for fear of contagion or
contamination, and yet this is just what the housewife has been doing
for years with her household employees under the firm impression that
she was protecting them as well as herself.

Present statistics, however, upon the morality and immorality of women
who belong to what is at present termed the "servant class," prove only
too clearly that the "protection" provided by the employer's home does
not protect. The shelter thus given serves too often to encourage a life
of deception, especially as in reality the housewife knows but little of
what takes place "below stairs."

The "servants' quarters" are, as a rule, far enough away from the other
rooms of the house for much to transpire there without the knowledge of
the "mistress of the house," but who has not heard her complain of the
misconduct of her employees? Startling discoveries have been made at the
most unexpected times and from the most unexpected quarters. One lady
found her maid was in the habit of going out at night after the family
had retired, and leaving the front door unlocked in order to regain
admittance in the early morning without arousing the family. Another
housewife discovered one day that her cook's husband, whose existence
until then was unknown, had been coming for several months to her house
for his dinner. Every householder finds that in the late evening her
"servants" entertain their numerous "cousins" and friends at her
expense. Moreover, they do not hesitate to use the best china, glass,
and silver for special parties and draw upon the household supplies for
the choicest meats and wines. And because they cannot go out in the day

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Online LibraryC. Helene BarkerWanted, a Young Woman to Do Housework Business principles applied to housework → online text (page 1 of 4)