The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study

By W. E. B. Du Bois | Go to book overview

IV
GRADES OF SERVICE AND WAGES.

In his study of household service in the eighth volume of "Life and Labour of the People," Mr. Charles Booth distinguishes three grades or divisions among women in domestic service. The lowest group is made up of those employed in the "roughest single-handed places." The next group is made up of those in single-handed places, but of a better class; while the third group "includes those employed in many middle class homes and in the large establishments of the wealthy, it being scarcely possible to make any practical division between these two classes of servants." Each group merges imperceptibly into the next above it, so that it is practically impossible to separate them in statistical enumeration. If another grade be supplied between the second and third given here--a grade found in well-to-do Philadelphia families, where two women servants are employed--this grading of London service applies very fairly to the condition of colored service in Philadelphia. A considerable number of families in Philadelphia employ but one woman servant, and hire no extra help to do laundry work, house cleaning or outside work. The one woman does the "cooking, washing, ironing, and drags up all the ashes, tends furnace, cleans the front, and does every single thing "--as one woman put her own case. A second sort of household has only one domestic, but also hires extra service for laundry work, etc. Then follows the large number of houses where two women servants are kept, cook and "second girl," sometimes with and sometimes without the weekly extra service; and finally, the establishments with many domestics, each having his or her own special duties. The only classification of househould servants which is at all practicable in this inquiry is that into sub-occupations or specialized kinds of work resulting from division of labor within domestic service. Such a classification of colored domestic service in Philadelphia shows seven sub-divisions of the work engaging the labor of men servants, while there are no fewer than twelve in which women are employed. These are here given in tabulated form:

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