SPECIAL REPORT

ON

NEGRO DOMESTIC SERVICE

IN THE SEVENTH WARD

PHILADELPHIA

BY

ISABEL EATON, M. A.

Fellow of the College SettlementsAssociation

I.

INTRODUCTION.

This paper is an attempt to give the most accurate facts obtainablebearing upon the question of colored domestic service inPhiladelphia. It endeavors to show the relation of the coloreddomestic to the general domestic service problem on the one hand,and to the great mass of the Negro people on the other. Thepurpose, scope and methods of the work are the same as thosealready explained at length by Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois in theintroduction to this volume, constituting the general report ofthe investigation conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.

The section treating Domestic Service is no unimportantdivision of the general subject. On the contrary, it is probablyof more consequence than any other single aspect of the problem,since the number of domestic servants among colored wage-earnersis shown by the last census to be greater in thirty-two out offorty-eight States than the number engaged in any otheroccupation; while in many cases it is greater than the numberengaged in all other employments taken together. Indeed thispredominance of domestic service over all other occupationsfollowed by the Negroes, is recorded of every State in the Union,excepting the Southern States, where agriculture stands first anddomestic service second. It will doubtless be surprising to manyto hear that the census record shows that each of the Northernand Western States, with the single exception of Delaware, hasmore colored people in domestic service than in any otheroccupation, while in nearly seven in every ten of these Statescolored domestic service more than outnumbers the aggregate ofall other occupations of colored people. The record for the Stateof Pennsylvania as given by the last census shows the followingfacts concerning occupations of Negroes throughout the State:

State. All Occupations. Domestic Service.
Males. Females. Males. Females.
Pennsylvania 37, 534 15,704 22,505 14,297

 

It appears from this that very nearly 60 per cent of thecolored workingmen of Pennsylvania are engaged in domesticservice; while over 91 per cent of the colored workingwomen ofthe State are in service. A graphic presentation of these factsmakes clear the large proportion of the Negro population ofPennsylvania employed in domestic service:

 

In the city of Philadelphia nearly the same preponderance ofdomestic service in relation to other occupations of the coloredpeople is found.

In this investigation a separate schedule for domestic servicewas used.1 Like the other schedules, it was preparedunder the direction of Dr. S. M. Lindsay, Assistant Professor ofSociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and was carefullyrevised by the national Department of Labor at Washington, aswell as by prominent statisticians in New York and elsewhere. Thefacts here given were collected during a nine months, residenceat the Philadelphia College Settlement, which is located in theheart of one of the most densely populated Negro quarters of thecity.

This schedule was used throughout the residence streets of theSeventh Ward, and elsewhere in the ward limits wherever coloreddomestics were employed.2 This ward includes among itsinhabitants all grades of wealth and comfort, from the houseswith a coachman and coachman's assistant, a butler and butler'sassistant, and a retinue of female domestics as well, to thosehouses where only one woman is employed, who does "generalhousework," sometimes including not only cooking and laundrywork, but also the furnace work, removal of ashes, "cleaningthe front," and other outside work usually delegated to aman. And thus, since nearly all degrees of wealth are representedin the district investigated--that is to say, from the presentpoint of view, all grades of service-employing families--it isprobable that all grades of colored domestic service have beenencountered in this survey.

In this house-to-house canvass, every domestic scheduled, witha very few exceptions, was personally interviewed. Occasionallythe butler or waiter would answer for the cook, if both chancedto have served long in the same family, or sometimes the lady ofthe house would herself supply the answers, but in every case theinformation given was such as to warrant belief in itsreliability. To the domestic servants personally interviewed inthis way have been added the far greater number scheduled by Dr.DuBois in his canvass of the homes of the colored people withinthe ward limits. Altogether 677 men have been recorded and 1612women, making a total of 2289 domestics, male and female, eitherworking or living in the Seventh Ward.

ENDNOTES:

1 See Appendix A.

2 For map showing the ward boundaries see page 59.

 

 

From W.E.B. DuBois, The PhiladelphiaNegro. New York: Lippincott, 1899, Special Report ( Part I),pp. 425-429.


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