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 Boothdistinguishes three grades or divisions among women in domesticservice. The lowest group is made up of those employed inthe "roughest single-handed places." The next group ismade up of those in single-handed places, but of a better class;while the third group "includes those employed in manymiddle class homes and in the large establishments of thewealthy, it being scarcely possible to make any practicaldivision between these two classes of servants." Each groupmerges imperceptibly into the next above it, so that it ispractically impossible to separate them in statisticalenumeration. If another grade be supplied between the second andthird given here--a grade found in well-to-do Philadelphiafamilies, where two women servants are employed--this grading ofLondon service applies very fairly to the condition of coloredservice in Philadelphia. A considerable number of families inPhiladelphia employ but one woman servant, and hire no extra helpto do laundry work, house cleaning or outside work. The one womandoes the "cooking, washing, ironing, and drags up all theashes, tends furnace, cleans the front, and does every singlething"--as one woman put her own case. A second sort ofhousehold has only one domestic, but also hires extra service forlaundry work, etc. Then follows the large number of houses wheretwo 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 havinghis or her own special duties. The only classification ofhousehould servants which is at all practicable in this inquiryis that into sub-occupations or specialized kinds of workresulting from division of labor within domestic service. Such aclassification of colored domestic service in Philadelphia showsseven sub-divisions of the work engaging the labor of menservants, while there are no fewer than twelve in which women areemployed. These are here given in tabulated form:

 

TABLE V.

SUB OCCUPATIONS IN PHILADELPHIA DOMESTICSERVICE (SEVENTH

WARD) BY NUMBER AND SEX.

MALE

FEMALE

Bell and errand boys, etc 23 Bell and errand girls, etc 34
Butler 109 Child's nurse 21
Coachman 76 Chambermaid 114
Waiter 387 Waitress 44
Cook 47 Waitress and chambermaid 22
Valet 4 Lady's maid 4
General work 31 Laundress 25
    Cook 365
    Cook and laundress 8
    Chambermaid and laundress 6
    "Janitress" 4
    General housework 965

 

Work Required of Various Sub-occupations.--Thework usually assigned to each of these sub-classes is known in ageneral way by everyone. In one of the appendices to her book on"Domestic Service," Miss Salmon publishes a circularletter from one of the committees of the Philadelphia Civic Clubto the members of the club, submitting standards of work andwages for the various classes of sub-occupations among domesticservants. A single paragraph may be quoted, which gives theduties of one sub-occupation minutely and accurately, though allsorts of cross-classifications occur in practice, the waitressoften being also chambermaid or laundress:

"Waitresses at $3.00 or $3.50 per week; must understand care of dining-room, of silver, glass and china; care and attention in waiting on table, care of parlor and halls and answering the doorbell properly."

The requirements for cooks, laundresses, chambermaids, nurses,etc., are given with equal accuracy of detail, but this is sogenerally understood that it is not necessary to dwell on thepoint here. The term "janitress" may need a word ofexplanation; this was what the hall servant and generally usefuldomestic at a large private boarding school called herself, andthere were several others who seemed best classed with her. Theduties of the butler in many cases extend to those of steward,and he is often to a large degree responsible for the selectionand purchase of the food materials used in his particularestablishment. The colored butler thus honorably commissionedgenerally styles himself "butler and steward," thoughhe has not, in any case thus far personally encountered, theresponsibility of engaging and paying the other servants, as isthe case with the English steward. The Philadelphia use of theword is evidently a modification of the English term and bears aquite different significance.

The wages paid for these services vary in accordance with manymodifying influences, as will be shown. Domestic service,however, is generally acknowledged to be well paid, as comparedwith other occupations which are open to women. A cook receiving$4.50 a week, the average pay in Boston, can save as much in ayear as the average teacher in American public schools, as isshown by a comparison of the average teacher's salary, based on6512 records,7 and the statement is made on theauthority of cashiers of banks in factory towns that domestics asa class save more than do factory hands. The question of thesavings of colored domestics is treated in the latter part ofthis report.

Table VI, which follows, shows the range of wages paid to menin the various sub-divisions of colored domestic service and alsothe average wage in each class of service. This table and TableVII represent the statements of the workers themselves in regardto their earnings.

 

TABLE VI.

RANGE OF WAGES AND AVERAGE WAGES OF COLOREDMEN SERVANTS
IN PHILADELPHIA.

Sub-occupation.

Range of Wages.

Average
Weekly Wage.*

Bell-boy, etc **$1.00 -- $4.50 $2.61
Butler 6.25 -- 13.50 8.24
Coachman 5.00 -- 14.00 8.58
Waiter 2.00 -- 8.00 6.14
Cook 1.00 -- 15.00 6.17
Valet 7.00 -- 10.00 8.00
General work 1.00 --10.00 5.38

* Computed on basis of reports from all individualsinterviewed belonging to each sub-occupation.

** The figures given indicate the lowest and highest wagesreported in each class, as reported by those interviewed in acanvass of 616 individuals in the Seventh Ward Philadelphia.

 

The figures here given of course represent the weeklypay for the services classified; but such sums as $1.00 asthe weekly pay for the service of a cook, or $2.00 as that of awaiter should be recognized as unusual and as recording factswhich are far from typical, which represent the extreme ofunderpay offered only under extraordinary circumstances, probablyto a young and inexperienced boy or to an aged or otherwiseinefficient cook.

Table VII gives the same set of facts in regard to theearnings of women servants:

 

TABLE VII.

RANGE OF WAGES AND AVERAGE WAGES OF COLOREDWOMEN

SERVANTS IN PHILADELPHIA

Sub-occupation.

Range of Wages.

Average Weekly.**

Errand girls, etc. *$0.00 -- $2.50 $2.00
Child's nurse 1.50 -- 10.00 3.35
Chambermaid 1.50 -- 4.00 3.17
Waitress 1.50 -- 4.00 3.31
Waitress and chambermaid 2.00 -- 3.50 3.17
Lady's maid 3.50 -- 4.00 3.63
Laundress 2.50 -- 7.00 4.04
Cook 2.50 -- 10.00 4.02
Cook and laundress 3.50 -- 5.00 4.00
Chambermaid and laundress 3.25 -- 4.00 3.58
Janitress 2.00 -- 7.00 4.06
General work 1.00 -- 5.00 3.24

* That is to say, "living and tips."

** The average is the actual average for all cases recorded.

 

These two tables show that in domestic service, as in everyother department of the economic world, it is the office ofskill or of trust which is the best paid. The offices ofskill and trust among the men are those of butler and valet, ortrusted personal attendant. Frequently the coachman is alsobutler. Comparison of the average pay of butlers with that ofwaiters or general work of "utility men," as they arecalled, shows very clearly the higher pay for skilledwork. Men cooks' wages are here seen to be low in comparison withthe butlers' or coachmen's, --this for several reasons: first,because in so small a number as were encountered one manreceiving only $1.00 brings down the average appreciably;further, because in the wealthiest establishments almost nomen-cooks were encountered. The majority of men-cooks reportingwere employed in boarding houses, where presumably the pay wasnot allowed for on a lavish scale; but, finally and chiefly,wages of men-cooks are lower because a man servant who is a cookpractically competes with the woman-cook. The services of anexcellent woman can be gotten for $4.50 or $5.00, while no womancan take the place of a butler or coachman; hence butlers' wagesare not affected by woman's competition. Doubtless the sametendency operates to lower the wages of waiters, now that suchcapable waitresses can be obtained. The same tendency isnoticeable in England, where Mr. Booth says the butler is"giving place to the neat parlor-maid." In Table VII,showing women's wages, the skilled specialists are cooks andlaundresses, while the office of trust is held by the janitress,and these are seen to head the list in the matter of pay, beingthe only women domestics who receive on the average more than$4.00. The Boston Employment Bureau publishes a list 8showing the same thing. The average wages of cooks in Boston isgiven as $4.45, while chambermaids receive $3.86, waitresses$3.76, second girls $3.34 and general servants $3.16. Thefactotum, who does everything from cooking to furnace work andhouse cleaning, is evidently not considered a skilled hand, norpaid as such.

Secondly, these two tables also show clearly a very largedifference between the pay of men and of women in domesticservice; the men receiving on the average close upon 100 per centmore than the women. Miss Salmon's averages,9 showingthe wages of men and of women domestics throughout the country,are $167.96 yearly for women and $373.36 yearly for men. Thedifference here is more than 100 per cent. These figures,therefore, emphasize this difference between men's pay andwomen's pay, showing that men servants are generally paid morethan double the wages which women accept.

Are wages in domestic service affected by race or color? Howdo theory and practice agree in this matter of wages? How nearlydoes the wage which ought to be paid agree with the actualaverage pay of domestics? A comparison of the figures given inTable VII, with the standard of wages suggested by theladies of the Philadelphia Civic Club in the letter alreadyquoted, is interesting as showing the close agreementbetween pay which the best intelligence of the city believes tobe just and the actual average wages of Philadelphia domestics.The following table compares these average wages with theCivic Club estimates:

 

TABLE VIII.

COMPARISON OF "THEORETICAL WAGES"WITH ACTUAL WAGES OF

DOMESTICS IN PHILADELPHIA.

  Civic Club Estimate. Actual Average Wage
of Colored Domestics.
Cooks At $3.50 or $4.00 per week $4.02
Waitresses " 3.00 " 3.50 " " 3.31
Chambermaids " 3.00 " 3.50 " " 3.17
Child's nurse " 3.00 " 3.50 " " 3.35
Laundress " 3.50 " 4.00 " " 4.04
Seamstress
or
Lady's maid
" 3.50 " 4.00 " " 3.63

 

This agreement points to the probability that among women indomestic service at least, there is no difference between"white pay and black pay," however much of it there maybe in other departments of work in Philadelphia; for the CivicClub estimate is given for the whole field of service, white aswell as black. Among men servants, however, there probably is avariation in wages determined largely by color. This first becameevident on Rittenhouse Square,10 where the coloredbutlers encountered were receiving on the average $36.90monthly--(a slightly better wage than that of the Seventh Wardemployee doing the same work), while the white butlers, accordingto the statement of one of their number, "generally get$40.00 to $45.00 a month in the houses that keep one man.Where there are two men--two white men--the first may get $50.00and the second $45.00; but there are not many houses thatpay $50.00." 11

The variation in pay of colored and white butlers is probablypartly due then to the fact already stated that there arerelatively fewer white than colored men in service; thus givingdifferent ratios of supply and demand for white and colored menservants. But the matter of fashion counts much. It doubtless hasmore influence in determining the pay of an employee who is asmuch in evidence as is the butler or coachman than it has infixing the pay of an "invisible employee" like thecook. The question of personal appearance and fashion holds alsoas between different grades of white employees, as will be seenfrom Mr. Booth's statements that in London "a secondfootrman of five feet six inches would command £20 to £22,while one of five feet ten inches or six feet would not takeunder £28 or £30. Again, a short first footman could not expectmore than £30, while a tall man would command £32 to£40." The same principle operating in Philadelphiaoften obliges colored men, like short footmen in London, to takewhat they can get. There is a relatively smaller demand for themfor these two reasons, and so their pay varies from white men'spay, while among the women those cooks and maids who are the mostskillful are in greatest demand; so that color makes lessdifference in the women's wages.

Does "imported service" affect wages of coloreddomestic servants in Philadelphia? There can be little doubt thatin household service, where hardly anything else could haveaffected their secure hold on at least this one branch ofemployment, fashion has militated against the colored people ofPhiladelphia. A Spruce street colored butler said, "What areyou going to do when you're shut out of your work? I don't knowno other country. I was born here. The colored are shut out morethan when I come to Philadelphia in '65. The foreigners shut usout of even our ordinary work we've always done in service. Idon't know why; because the colored people are just as good helpas they ever was. And the worst is it throws them into the slumswhen they can't get their work. I've been praying the Lord tohelp our people," etc. A white butler on Rittenhouse Squaresums up the situation from what might be called the impersonalpoint of view: "You see they (the employers) go to Europeand bring home Euglishmen, and that knocks out the Negro."Many colored women-- natives--say that it is harder now thanformerly to get good places, because there are so many more whitegirls--foreigners-- seeking household work.

It is difficult to reduce to figures information on thispoint, but the following enumeration which shows the distributionof colored service with reference to the fashionable quarterseems to confirm the opinions of the butlers quoted, or at leastto indicate that the people who employ the greatest number ofservants employ fewer colored people than are to be found inplainer establishments.

 

TABLE IX.

DISTRIBUTION OF COLORLD SERVICE WITH REFERENCETO THE

FASHIONABLE QUARTER.

  Seven Blocks East of Broad Street. Seven Blocks West of Broad Street
On
Spruce
Street.
106 domestics, or 65 per cent
of all colored domestic
servants on Spruce Street.
58 domestics, or 35 per cent of
all colored domestic servants
on Spruce Street.
On
Pine
Street.
99 domestics, or 58 per cent
of all colored domestic
servants on Pine Street.
71 domestics, or 42 per cent of
all colored domestic servants
on Pine Street.

 

The smaller number of colored domestics employed in thefashionable section is noticeable both on Pine and Sprucestreets, the number to the east of Broad on Spruce being verynearly double that in the more fashionable region to the west.The greater divergence of the ratios east and west is where weshould expect it in accordance with the butler's theory--that ison Spruce, the more fashionable street.12 On thewhole, it seems probable that the fashion of importing Englishand French service has an appreciable effect in the direction ofcomplicating Philadelphia's Negro problem.

"Importation" from the butler's point of view iseasily explained. The willingness of English butlers to come toAmerica is doubtless largely, indeed almost wholly, due to thefact that their absolute money wages are so much higher here thanin England. Few of them are political economists enough torealize that $600 in America may be worth only half that sum inEngland. So glittering an offer as that of "double hispresent salary," is eagerly accepted by the majority ofEnglishmen of a certain grade of intelligence and this has quitedefinite results upon the domestic service of our large cities inAmerica.

In the table which follows, the annual money wages of domesticservants in London are contrasted with the general yearly averagewages for men's and women's work in thirty-seven of our Statesand also with the wages of colored domestic servants inPhiladelphia.

 

TABLE X.

TABLE COMPARING ENGLISH AND AMERICAN MONTHLYWAGES.

(Annual Amounts Over and Above Board andLodging.)

 

Sub-occupation

London*

Colored Domestics
in Philadelphia.

United States ** Philadelphia.
Women Gen'l Servant $77.50 $168.48   Average
women's
wages,
$167.96.
Average
men's
wages,
$373.36
Average
women's
wages,
$179.92.
Average
colored
men's
wages,
$335.40
Housemaid 82.50 164.84  
Cook 109.50 209.04  
Men. Errand boy 55.00 135.72  
Footm'n, Coach'n 175.00 446.16  
Butler 300.00 428.48
540.00
(Colored)
(White)

* Charles Booth, Vol. viii, pp. 217 and 223.
** Salmon, "Domestic Service," p. 28.

The comparison here offered shows that in the most of the sub-occupationsof domestic service the actual sums paid are twice aslarge in America as in London.

The range of wages in England as given by Mr. Booth alsostrengthens the belief that American wages must sound very largeto English ears. "The actual wages earned," says Mr.Booth, on page 217 of his eighth volume, "begin as low asone shilling a week, this amount being received in three cases(out of a total of 1692 servants), while forty-two more were paidless than £5 per annum--at the other end of the scale we findthree servants all over thirty years old, receiving from £ 26 to£36 a year, three more receiving £20 and £39, others receivingfrom £15 to £20." To an American this sounds far fromlavish although it is of course impossible to know how much thismoney is worth until we know the cost of staple articles inLondon. Still,to a servant who has been receiving even £36 ayear ($180), our highest women's wage ($520 yearly) woulddoubtless present remarkable attractions.

Do board and lodging enter into, or affect, wages? Acomparison of the items of Table X shows a very large differencebetween the pay of American men servants and American womenservants. This seems hardly to be accounted for by the fact thata much larger per cent of women in domestic service than of menreceive board and lodging in addition to wages. Miss Salmon'sinvestigation estimates that only 60 per cent of the men servantsreceive board and lodging while 98 per cent of the women do.

In the Philadelphia investigation the facts upon this pointseem to indicate that the amount of wages is only slightlyaffected, if at all, by the question of board and lodging. Whenthese are given in addition to wages they apparently do notstand, in the mind of either employer or domestic, as partpayment for service. A comparison of the pay of women cooks wholodge at their place of work with that of women cooks who lodgeat home will illustrate this. The average pay of those who lodgeat their place of work,and therefore receive board and lodging inaddition to wages, is $4.13 as contrasted with $3.95 received bythose who go home at night. Here the difference will be seen tobe in the opposite direction from what we should expect if boardand lodging are reckoned as part of the wages of cooks. The samefacts hold good for the other sub-occupations among coloreddomestic servants in the ward, which would seem to indicate thatin Philadelphia, at least,board and lodging are customarily givenor not according as it suits the convenience or the preference ofmistress or maid, but are not, except rarely, considered a partof the wages paid for service. Many employers doubtless believethat the service rendered by girls who lodge in their place ofwork is better, and they may perhaps consider the board andlodging given as added pay for better quality of service. Be thisas it may, the actual money wages do not appear to be affected byit in Philadelphia, where, as will be seen by the followillgtable, only 50 per cent of the colored women in service and only24 per cent of the colored men lodge at their employers'establishments.

 

TABLE Xl.

NUMBER AND PER CENT OF COLORED DOMESTICSERVANTS, BY SEX,

IN SEVENTH WARD, WHO LODGE AT PLACE OF WORK.

Lodging Place.

Male

Female

No. Per Cent. No. Per Cent.
At employers' house 38 24.4 207 50.7
At home or lodgings 118 75.6 201 49.3
Total 156 100.0 408 100.0

 

To the thoughtful and thrifty colored domestic this ought tosuggest an easy way of saving a good bit for the "old folksat home" if they can only see it that way, for they reducethe home expenses both for meals and for rent in manycases by lodging at place of work, while they themselves receivethe same money wages and very likely higher ones, whether theirboard and lodging comes out of their employer or is drawn fromtheir own home circle.

The majority of the single colored girls in service board andlodge in their employers' establishments, only 38.7 per cent ofthem going home at night; while most of the married women inservice, as is natural, do go home from work, only 27.5 per centof them lodging in the employers' house. Of the men reporting inregard to lodging place 29 per cent of the single mensleep at their places of work, while 71 per cent have lodgingselsewhere. Of the married men only 17.6 per cent lodge atthe place of work while 82.4 per cent lodge at home.

 

ENDNOTES:

7 L. M. Salmon, "Domestic Service," p.99.

8 L M. Salmon, " Domestic Service," p.90.

9 L. M. Salmon, " Domestic Service, " p.88, or see fable X, following.

10 Rittenhouse Square is not in the Seventh Ward,but being probably the most fashionable quarter of the city, wasinvestigated for purposes of comparison.

11 The remainder of this conversation gives a sidelight on the reason for this difference in men's wages. Theinvestigator, seeing this butler was communicative, said,"The colored butlers get less than that, I suppose you know,only $30 or $35, and a few get $40. Don't you think they make asgood or better butlers and waiters than you white men do?"He laughed and said, "Yes, they're better at that than weare, and "-- in a half-confidential, half-amusedtone--"they aren't so lazy as we are. We're lazy, but theyare always anxious to please, and they work harder 'an wedo." "Well, why don't they get the same pay,then?" "Well," he said, stiffening, "but evenif they do, you don't expect a white man is going to workfor what a nigger will take. You can't expect that.."

12 In corroboration of this belief that colored menare displaced by imported English and foreign men servants comesthe statement made to the investigator by the business manager ofthe Continental Hotel. He says that the Continental, whichat the change of seasons often adds at one time as many as thirtycolored waters and bellmen to its force, "can always get asmany colored waiters as are wanted at a few hours' notice,"which certainly indicates that there are many unemployed coloredmen in Philadelphia who are anxious to work but are crowded outin the supply and demand adjustments.

 

 

From W.E.B. DuBois, The PhiladelphiaNegro. New York: Lippincott, 1899, Special Report (Part IV),pp. 444-455.


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