was hard upon a poor wife, and the Legislature gallantly enlarged the rights of married women, so as to enable them to contract for their services, and receive and keep the pay for them for their sole and separate use, and to invest the same.
Then take the case of minor servants. In general, a child's earnings belong to and are recoverable in the name of the parent. In the absence of an agreement, express or implied, that payment may be made to the child, the parent alone is entitled to the child's earnings. The father, if living, can claim his child's wages; but, if he be dead, they belong to the widow so long as she remains unmarried. The law puts upon her the support of the children, and so, if they go out to service while under age, gives her the right to their earnings, and to collect them. But if she marries again—presto!—her legal capacity is gone. She is no longer herself, but has merged her identity in another, and she can no longer control the property or earnings of her children.
If in general there is an express or implied agreement that the child may receive the wages, that agreement supersedes the common law rule. For instance, if a minor makes a contract for her services on her own account, and the father knows of it and makes no objection, there is an implied assent that she shall have her own earnings. If, again, the parent resides in the same place, and neither receives nor claims any wages for the daughter's services for a long period, the inference would be strong that he or she intended that the daughter should receive her own earnings. Or, if the parent is absent for several years, and leaves the child to shift for itself, the presumption is that there was an intention to emancipate the child. In New York State the Legislature has taken a hand in this matter, and provided that payment of wages to a minor in service shall be valid unless the parents or guardians of such child notify the party employing the minor within thirty days after the service begins that they claim the child's wages. And, under any circumstances, if it appears that the child at service has no parent or guardian entitled to her wages, the mistress must pay them to the servant.
Such are some of the rights of those who serve us. It would be a difficult task in the limits of a magazine article to treat of all their rights. Being human beings, and performing their lowly duties by contract only, the law clothes them with rights similar to those possessed by other persons, who are not compelled to undertake what we call menial work. Their property rights, for instance, are as sacred as those of princes. To steal a dollar from a cook is as wrong as to break open the safe of a banker. Their rights of life and limb also are just as inviolable as those of their employers. To kill a waitress is murder as well as when a queen is put to death violently. To chew up the
- L. 1860.
- f 5 Wend., 204.
- 5 Lans., 339.
- 5 Barb., 122.
- 10 Barb., 300.
- 8 Cow., 84.
- 29 Barb., 160.