Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/108

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

complete stranger. In short, we expect a great deal from our servants, and it is reasonable to ask, What do we give in return, what have we ever done for a class on whom we are so dependent, what effort has been made to raise the tone of service, what inducements are offered to respectable young women to enter the ranks? None, or comparatively none! High wages do not prove a sufficient attraction; in no case is the remuneration high enough to secure a competence for old age, without many, many years of toil; there are no fortunes to be made, no special advantages even to be gained, by special skill or integrity. An extravagent, inefficient cook gets as well paid as a capable, economical one, specially among the middle classes, who can not afford to pay for the very best service.

Most people will admit that average servants of late years have deteriorated, partly owing to the fact that they are drawn from an inferior class, and partly because in the terrible march of mind of the last twenty years they have been left behind, their position as a class absolutely ignored; though their failings are ever before us, nothing has been done for their improvement. In one respect the middle classes are unfortunate, they have to suffer for the faults of the upper classes; the kitchen-maid of Belgrave Square becomes very often the cook of a less aristocratic neighborhood, and the waste and extravagance permitted in the kitchen of a rich man are ruinous in the professional man's semi-detached villa, and the cook gets blamed for what, after all, is only the result of improper training. In short, at the present time servants are either badly trained or not trained at all, and therefore we want a Kitchen College.

In other words, we want a thoroughly organized and recognized center, school, college—the name is immaterial—where servants can study and pass such an examination and gain such a certificate as will be a proof of skill and competence not only in one special department, but of general capacity and respectability; that qualifications should be given according to merit; and that the institution should be so managed that a woman would feel as proud of a degree from the "College for Domestic Servants" as from any other college open to women. Cooks, house-maids, parlor-maids, and nurses have all well defined duties, and a competitive examination is the best method of testing their skill. A nurse frequently knows less about children than any other living creature; she has the haziest ideas about draughts, the most supreme contempt for ventilation, and firmly believes a baby never cries unless it is hungry, and forthwith gives the inevitable bottle, frustrating Nature's efforts to exercise and expand the lungs. A general servant who can cook tolerably and knows a little about housework is the exception; as a rule, she is deplorably ignorant of both. Up to the present a good character has been the only guarantee of efficiency, but it is clear that it is by no means an infallible test; a servant that one mistress may have thought satisfactory may prove