Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/107

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of toil, the only variation being from seams to button-holes, from button-holes to seams, yet she clings to "business" with the strongest tenacity! Why? In the first place, she thinks it respectable; "business" is such a delightfully vague term! It may mean anything. But "service," there is no mistaking the meaning of that word. "Only a servant" is considered the most contemptuous designation. To an uneducated and untrained girl the rules and regulations of service seem very rigid. Service entails neatness, order, politeness, industry, truth, honesty, morality—in short, all the qualifications that go to form a good woman and a good citizen; and where, we may reasonably ask, are young women to acquire all those good qualities before going to service? Failing in them, they fail to give satisfaction to the employer, and hence the everlasting complaints. Besides considering it a disgrace to be a servant, girls have an idea that in domestic service there is no chance of "getting on," while "business" of any sort is full of possibilities; and a third and prevalent objection is that they lose all opportunity of bettering themselves by marriage—their prospects are limited strictly to their own class. Those are the weightiest objections young women have to service, and it must be confessed they are not entirely unfounded. No doubt there has been much done of late years to help servants, both physically and morally, but I am not aware that anything has been attempted from a sociological point of view; their position is in many respects worse than it was a hundred years ago. Then, though a servant was ill-paid and more frequently not paid at all, there were compensations, there existed a certain amount of intimacy between master and man, mistress and maid; there were kindly feeling, interest, confidence on the one side, fidelity on the other, the servant was not unfrequently the counselor, and very generally the companion of the master, and took a keen personal interest in all his affairs. Now there are mistrust and suspicion on both sides; the maid thinks the mistress makes it the pastime of her idle moments to worry and find fault with her, while the mistress believes the maid's chief pleasure in life is to cross and annoy her; both misunderstand each other, and the result is mutual discomfort. Without exactly wishing to recall the days of "Caleb Balderstone," one can not help desiring a better feeling between persons who have to live in such very close contact as mistresses and servants. In no other calling whereby a woman earns her bread is she brought into such strictly personal relations with her employer as in service; under no other circumstances is an employer bound to be so careful in investigating the character of the person employed. Our children, at the most tender and impressionable age, are left almost exclusively to the care of servants; our food, on which so much of the health and happiness of our lives depend, is entirely at their mercy. We intrust them with everything we value most, with no better guarantee of their efficiency than the word or the letter of a