In regard to length of service, we have 284 reports from menemployed in domestic service, and 591 from women, 875 altogether.
Of these 213 are from men personally interviewed, and sincethis question was uniformly asked, these 213 reports willrepresent the service of the rank and file of men servants.
The remaining 71 were recorded upon the family schedules, andwere obtained, therefore, from the statements of their parents orsisters, and since no question regarding length of serviceappears in the family schedule, this information was evidentlyvolunteered. From this fact it seems probable that the length ofservice in these 71 cases was put forward as being somethingunusual, as indeed it is, including as it does, 7 records of 10to 15 years service with one family, 12 records of 16 to 20years, and 10 records of over 20 years of service, one coachmanhaving served 41 years in the same family. In view of the natureof this information it has been kept separate from the otherrecords and dealt with by itself in order to avoidmisrepresentation of facts.
The service periods shown in these 71 records range from 2 to41 years, the average service period being 11 years and 5 months.
|Service Periods (in years)||1-5||6-9||10-15||16-20||Over 20|
Number of men servants
The following table (No. XVIII) gives the nativity of these 71"long-service men."
|District of Columbia||7||9.9|
|New J ersey||3||4.2|
Here the 18.4 per cent from Philadelphia agrees with thePhiladelphia percentage in Table II, and also the 28.2 per centfrom Virginia corresponds very nearly with the parallel record inthat table which shows 27.9 per cent of the total domesticservice of Philadelphia coming from Virginia. Turning to considerthe pay of these long-service men, it is found that of these 71men 20 are coachmen, while 51 are "private waiters."The following table gives their range of wages and average wages.The general average wage will be seen to approach close upon$9.00 a week.
|Suboccupation.||Range of Wages||Average Weekly Wage|
|Coachman||$8 .00 - $14.00 (weekly)||$10.74|
|Private waiter||4.00 - 10.00 "||8.10|
|General average wage||$8.84 (weekly)|
With these facts concerning service periods, nativity andwages of "long-service men," it may be interesting tocompare the same facts for the men of the rank and file. With the"rank-and-file men" the service periods vary from a fewdays to 31 years, the average period being 4 years 6 months andsome days, a considerable contrast with the 11 years and 5 monthsof the long-service men.
In the following table the nativity of the long-service menand that of the rank-and-file men are brought together:
Per Cent of
Per Cent of
|District Of Columbia||7.2||9.9|
|North and South Carolina||5.3||5.6|
In this table as in previous ones, Maryland and Virginia areseen to be far in the lead in the matter of furnishing thedomestic service of the Seventh Ward of Philadelphia. Hereindeed, the Virginia record rises to a number almost twice asgreat as that furnished by both Philadelphia and Pennsylvaniataken together; although the percentage from the State herepractically agrees with that of the long-service men. The factsin regard to range of wages and average wages of coachmen andprivate waiters in the "rank and file" of service inthe Seventh Ward are given in Table XXI, which follows:
Range of Wages.
|Coachman||$5.00 to $14.00||$8.58|
|Private waiter||2.00 to 8.00||6.14|
|General average||$6.55 (weekly)|
A comparison of this with the average pay of the"longservice men" (whose average coachman's wage is$10.74, while their average waiter's wage is $8.10 and theirgeneral average wage is $8.84, nearly $9.00), would seemto point to the possibility that length of service may have someoccult connection with length of pocketbook, and that the"giving satisfaction" may not be all on one side of theline in the domestic service question. Of course it is true thata bad servant can not command high wages, also it is impossibleto transform a poor servant into a good one by paying him highwages; but, on the other hand, it is true that good service cannot be obtained without paying good wages for it.
Schedules giving service periods of colored women employedin the Seventh Ward show 591 records, only six of which werevolunteered as unusual, as in the case of the long-service mengiven above; in view of the smallness of this number these sixschedules have not been dealt with separately; but the women whohave served five years and over have been isolated, irrespectiveof the manner in which the information was obtained, and theirstatements separately treated as in the case of the long-servicemen.
These "long-service women" who have served fiveyears and more show 178 records; the range of serviceperiods is from five to thirty-five years, the averagebeing six years and eight months.
The range of service periods of "rank-and-filewomen" varies from one day to five years, while theiraverage service period is found to be three years and six months,only about one-half the service period of the long-servicewomen.
Their nativity and that of the "rank-and-file women"are given together for purposes of contrast and show thefollowing facts:
Per Cent of
Per Cent of
|District of Columbia||3.0||4.6|
|N. and S. Carolina||3.0||4.3|
According to this record a greater proportion of"longservice women" come from Philadelphia andPennsylvania, which is not the case in Table XX, contrastingnativity of the men.
The following tables show the range of wages and average wagefor each of the classes of women servants here considered:
Range of Wages.
|Cook (or laundress)||$3.00 - $7.00||$4.21||$18.22|
|Chambermaid (or waitress)||3.00 - 4.00||3.50||15.17|
|General housework||1.50 - 10.00||3.50||15.17|
|Gen'l average wage||3.67||15.90|
(In this table and the one following 4 1/3 weeks have beenreckoned to a month.)
Range of Wages
|Cook||$2.50 - $10.00||$3.99||$17.29|
|Chambermaid||1.50 - 4.00||3.21||13.91|
|General||1.00 - 4.00||2.99||12.96|
|Gen'l average wage||3.26||14.12|
By comparing the last two tables it will be seen that the wagevaries less between long-service and ordinary-service women thanin the case of the men. The ordinary cook's wage, $3.99, comparesmore favorably with $4.21, the long-service cook's wage, thandoes $8.58, the ordinary coachman's wage, with $10.74, the wageof the long-service coachman, and the contrasts throughout willbe seen to be less pronounced in the women's than in the men'swages.
But if the wage of ordinary service and long service variesless among the women than among the men, it must be rememberedthat the length of service varies less among the women than amongthe men. The average service periods of two classes of menservants are four years six months, and eleven years five months,the one being two and one-half times as great as the other; whilethe average service periods of the two classes of women are threeyears six months, and six years eight months, the one being notquite twice the other; hence, the narrower variations in wages ofwomen as compared with those of men would corroborate the theoryof the close connection of quality of service and consequentlength of service with high wages, rather than weaken thattheory. Also it is true that in spite of the occasionally greaterrange in the wages paid to the "rank and file," theaverage wages of the long service domestics, both men andwomen, are uniformly greater than the average wages paid to the"rank and file." Combining the average service periodsof the long-service domestics with those of the "rank andfile" gives us a combined average of six years and one monthas the average service period of colored men servants, and fouryears and five months as the average service period of coloredwomen servants in Philadelphia. Again, uniting these averages ofservants of both sexes in Philadelphia, gives the combinedaverage service period for all colored domestics in theSeventh Ward of Philadelphia. This combined average serviceperiod is 4.96 years, that is to say, five years lacking lessthan one month. It is based on 875 records:17
This offers a decided contrast with the average length ofservice of domestics the country over, which average serviceperiod, Miss Salmon states, "is found to be less than oneyear and a half." 18
This contrast in service periods may be made clearer by thefollowing graphic representation, showing length of serviceperiod of Negroes and of general domestic service in the UnitedStates, given in terms of a common unit of length.
These service periods will be seen to stand to each other inthe ratio of about 3 to 10, and may have some connection with therelative numbers of white and Negro domestics. It may be that theNegro service period is three times as long as the averageservice period, because there are three times as many Negroservants proportionately, and therefore three times as manychances for capable servants to be found among them. Anotherpossible explanation of the longer period of colored domesticsmay be their greater docility as servants. As one employer whosename is well known in Philadelphia circles has said of coloreddomestics: "If you get a good class of colored people theyare the most faithful, honest and biddable servants in theworld." This docility which is a recognized trait of theNegro character has doubtless been developed by slavery, and itis not unlikely that it has been still further cultivated inthese later days by their knowledge that losing their places inservice may mean inability to get work of any kind for anindefinite period. However, if we may judge from the remarks of acertain colored waitress upon length of service, the Negroes feelthat there is a point beyond which docility and a respectfulbearing cease to be virtues. As she had held her own situationfor twenty-two years, her remark may fairly be taken asunaffected by personal considerations. She said: "Yes, theysay long service is good service, but sometimes you can't stayat places; some of the ladies an' gentlemen's not very pleasant."An employer, on the same point, says: "It isn't the servantsany more than it is the mistresses who are responsible for thefrequent changes of place." She thinks that "it varieswith the individual, not with the race." Many of theemployers who discussed the subject with the investigator saidthat their experience was that colored servants were "morerespectful" (six said this), "less impertinent"(2), "very anxious to please" (2), "more agreeableand obliging and have nicer manners" (4).
A third possible explanation of the longer period of serviceamong colored domestics may be found in the fact frequentlyadduced by their employers, that they "are much more likelythan white girls to become attached to the family"--so theynaturally stay longer in one place than others do. Anotheremployer says: "When they become fond of you they are verystaunch friends," and yet another, says of them: "Theyare much more loyal and infinitely more affectionatethan white servants. They have shown me absolute loyalty inservice." This is significant as being the testimony of aNorthern woman who had "never seen a colored servant"before she was married and who employed them for the first timeon coming to Philadelphia and now, after sixteen years,"would never have any one else."
The question whether one State or one section furnishes betterdomestics than another State or section is interesting, and hasits bearing on the point under discussion. It is possible thatthe Philadelphia colored people represent a higher grade sociallyand intellectually, than the Negroes of the South--and so, insearching for an explanation of the connection between length ofservice and quality of service it may be suggestive and valuablehere to compare the facts already tabulated in regard to nativitywith the facts in regard to ordinary and extraordinary service,to see if any indication may be forthcoming as to the localitywhich furnishes the best quality of colored domestic service,whether Philadelphia and Pennsylvania or the South. Such acomparison may cast light on the moot question whetherPhiladelphians are more likely to be well served by Philadelphiacolored people or by Southerners. In the table given below,therefore, the per cent of Philadelphia colored people amonglong-service and ordinary domestics is compared with thecorresponding per cent of Virginia-born colored domestics.Virginia has been chosen to represent the South because it is theSouthern State furnishing the greatest number of domesticservants in the Seventh Ward and is perhaps the State coming mostsharply into competition with the native colored domestics.
|RANK-AND-FILE DOMESTICS||LONG-SERVICE DOMESTICS|
|Proportion between |
The proportions of Pennsylvania and of Virginia service hereshown, are approximately represented by the fractions 19/35,20/34, 20/27, and 18/28 where the numerator in each case standsfor Philadelphia servants employed in the Seventh Ward, and thedenominator stands for Virginia servants there employed. Whenthese fractions are reduced to the same scale they become34884/64260, 37800/64260, 47600/64260 and 41310/64260. Here, aswill be seen, the first and smallest fraction stands forthe shortest service period (three years and six months);the second fraction for the next longer service period, and soon. The values of these fractions will be seen to increaseprogressively, excepting the last, so that the greater valuescorrespond with the longer service periods. The values of thesefractions then, when taken in connection with the increasingservice periods, would seem to indicate that the greater theproportion of Philadelphia domestics as compared with theproportion of Virginia domestics, the more valuable is theservice; that is to say that Philadelphia-born colored peopleappear to render the more efficient service. It should be saidthat the fourth fraction in the above comparison, to beconsistent with the theory offered, should be larger than thethird, but it must be remembered that the fourth fraction isbased upon only seventy-one records and is therefore less likelyto represent the facts accurately than the others which are basedon a much greater number of records.
Such indications as the above approach nearer to accuratetreatment of the question of quality of service rendered than itis possible to get through quoting opinions of employers. The subjectis hard to treat at all adequately for the reason that allstatements of degrees of excellence or of incompetency must bebased on the shifting sands of opinion and upon the opinions ofmany different people, having different traditions, differenteducation and home influences, different degrees of insight anddifferent standards of excellence. Statements so conditioned mustnecessarily be relative and impossible to reckon up and numberwith any semblance of statistical precision. Still the opinionsof the employers of colored domestics in the Seventh Ward ofPhiladelphia, a large proportion of whom have employed both whiteand colored help, should have a certain interest and value, eventhough they are not reducible to figures.
Fifty-five employers19 in the Seventh Ward statedtheir views in regard to the qualities of Negro domestics andmany varying opinions, both favorable and unfavorable, wereexpressed. The balance of testimony from these fifty-fiveemployers, however, seems to be largely in favor of the coloredpeople rather than whites, both in regard to the service offeredand in the attitude of the employe toward the employer. Only oneemployer stated that she preferred white to colored; she wasemploying colored help at that time only because she had not beenable to secure satisfactory white girls. Twenty employers saythat they find colored domestics quite as neat as whites, whiletwo find them not as neat and five find them more so; "muchcleaner than the Irish both in their work and in theirpersons;" "they keep their kitchen and their own roomcleaner." Ten employers think they stay for as long orlonger a service period, while seven think they do not stay aslong as the whites. Fourteen employers think they render as goodservice as whites, and eleven think their service better, or"a great deal better;" while one--although employingthree colored servants--thinks the whites do better work and saysshe has colored servants "because they look more likeservants." She also thinks they drink more than the whites,an opinion which, so far as the present investigator can learn,she is unique in holding, since all the other employers whodiscussed the point held the opposite view.
One gentleman, the business manager of one of the largefirst-class apartment hotels which employs thirty dining-roommen, names their freedom from intemperance as one of the chiefreasons why he "decidedly prefers colored help.""They give more attention to their work," he says,"are better waiters and they drink less. They can be countedupon on pay day the same as any other day, while white servingmen are likely to go and drink up their pay and be useless forthe rest of the day." The business manager of theContinental says the same thing, as do also all the hotels whichemploy colored service.
A very few employers think colored domestics "are lazyaud neglect their work," while more than four times as manysay that they are "industrious" and "goodworkers," "splendid workers," "a great dealbetter workers and decidedly better cooks than thewhites." One employer says on this point: "No, I havenot found them lazy, at least no more so than others; there aregood ones and bad ones among both white and colored." Skillin cooking was mentioned by only six employers, all of whom thinkcolored cooks superior to other servants in this respect.
Further judgments are: "They are excellent servants andhave an intuitive knowledge of what you want;" "they doall the things white servants wait to be told to do."Several employers agree on these points, but one says: "Theyhave to be told to do everything, but if you keep after them, youcan get the things done." The testimonial of one cook uponthe virtues of "her madam" will show this matter fromthe domestic point of view. This cook says, "My madam givesme the key, and she never comes down to see if I'm here in themorning; she knows I'll be here; and she never comes into thekitchen to see if meals are getting along, because she knows whenhalf-past six o'clock comes she can trust her girls tohave it ready right then." One mistress said: "Trustthem, and I have found they always provethemselves worthy of trust." Eighteen employersconcur in the view that they are trustworthy and do notdisappoint confidence; while three think them unreliable anduntrustworthy, as compared with white servants. On this subjectone employer on Spruce street said: "I think the coloredpeople are much maligned in regard to honesty, cleanliness andtrustworthiness; my experience of them is that they areimmaculate in every way, and they are perfectly honest;indeed, I can't say enough that is good about them." Thesesentiments were held by several other employers, one on Broadstreet using almost the same words: "I think the coloredpeople are very much maligned in this matter of honesty andtrustworthiness; I have two colored men now who are as honest asthe sun, and my cook, who also does all the marketing, is veryindustrious and careful--painstaking. She is a good, faithfulcreature, and very grateful."
In regard to the question of the pilfering of food left fromthe table, the concensus of opinion is heavily against thecolored people. There are only three employers who have anythingto say in defence of them in this particular, and six against.Their defenders say: "After ten years of experience with thecolored people, I have never had a colored servant take anything,even food;" the next: "We lost more food, etc., fromthe treating in the kitchen, which the Irish indulge in, than wehave ever missed from pilfering of colored servants," and athird, who employs both white and colored servants, says: "Iknow it is frequently said that the colored people take food homefrom the kitchen, but I have not found it so." On the otherhand it is said: "They are good servants, but they willcarry things off;" while another says that they "takefood; they don't mean to be dishonest, but they don't considerthat stealing, and are perfectly honest about money."Another employer says: "Unquestionably they arelight-fingered about food and sweetmeats; slavery has alwaysclothed and fed them and taught them to help themselves; we thinkslavery is responsible for it." Another thinks "theyare like children in temptation; they can't resist sweetmeats,but never take things of value." The other two employers whospoke on this point say practically the same thing: "Theyare honest; they take things to eat home, but they don't countthat; we never lose anything valuable." The other calls them"thieves," but evidently means pilferers of food.
In regard to their honesty, the balance is as strongly withthem as, in this question of purloining food, it is against them.Eighteen employers say they are honest, and not one states theopposite. Two of these find them "more honest than whiteservants," and two others, already quoted, say they are"perfectly honest," "as honest as the sun."Many remarks made by domestics themselves, in the course ofconversation, might be quoted as casting light on the subject,but only two will be given here. One elderly colored man, who hadbeen a school janitor in the west end of the ward for two years,and was nearly nine years in his former place, said: "Somepeople say if you put your hand in a man's pocket, you'restealing; they think that's the only way; but if you loaf two orthree hours every day when your boss is paying you for working, Isay you're stealing just the same--stealing his time; I say weonly live one day at a time, and that one day we've got to do thesame as if we'd just come to that place. In summer places I'veseen them so triflin'--fooling away their time, and merelybecause the proprietor don't see them." The same spirit wasshown by a woman cook on Broad street, who took pleasure indoing good work always for "her lady," whosekindness she enlarged upon with a warmth that showed a strongaffection. This woman said: "When my time comes to go homefrom here, it will be a pleasant thought that I have done all Ican to help my kind employer." These two cases imply notonly honesty in the overt act, but an entire honesty of purpose.Many similar cases might be cited.
The question of the general bearing and manners of coloreddomestics was discussed by many of their employers. The generalopinion of the employers is that they are "more willing andobliging" than white servants. As one employer says:"The Germans drink and the Irish order you out of thehouse, but the colored people are more respectful and anxious toplease." "They are more agreeable and obliging and havenicer manners," says another employer, and adds: "Whenmy sister was ill, the Irish maid I had at the time refused tocarry up the breakfast tray, 'because,' she said, 'it was not herbusiness to do nursing,' and she 'wouldn't do it for tendollars.' " So the employer herself prepared and carried upthe trays until the colored girl, who came soon after,volunteered her services with: "Let me take up the breakfasttray, Mrs. W-----. You look ready to drop," and since shecame, Mrs. W----- has never had a white girl in the house. Thatthe colored people are more willing and obliging in manner isattested by twenty employers and denied by no one, while oneemployer, who is connected with the University, and has had yearsof experience, both with white and colored servants, says of thecolored people: "Whether they are better or worse than thewhites may depend upon what whites you have. We had whiteservants for seven winters, and always employed the best Irishservants we could get; but they were so unsatisfactory that wegave them up and tried colored servants. Our experience of themis that they are infinitely cleaner than the white Irish, both intheir work and personally; they are more self-respecting andbetter mannered--more agreeable in manners; indeed, I have foundthem capable of the very highest cultivation of manner. One ofour men has the education of a gentleman and is improving himselfconstantly; the other is ignorant, but is exceedingly refined andmodest in manner. Of course they have faults; they are fickle,changing from place to place, even when they are fond of theiremployers, and they have quick tempers, but they are truthful andhonest; we have never lost a thing by them. We keep them bypreference, and shall continue to do so."
Several employers agree in regard to this instinct of thecolored people for good manners. One who constantly employs nineservants, and in the last twenty-five or thirty years has hadonly one set of white servants says: "There is much more tothem than people think; our first man servant has as many of theinstincts of a gentleman as anyone I ever saw." This is highpraise. "They have a native, deep-seated refinement and verylovely manners," says another who has employed them forfifteen years.
A judgment which was frequently encountered and always amongthose employers who had had experience of both white and coloredservants was that colored servants are "just like otherpeople of their own class." One employer says on this point:"I don't find a bit of difference; some are very neat andsome are very untidy; it depends entirely on thegirl." Another says: "There are good ones and poor onesamong both; it varies with the individual, not with therace." Another, in charge of a large institution, employingmany servants of whom half are white and half colored, says:"My experience has been very satisfactory with the colored;they are less impertinent, but in most respects are much likewhite people of their own class. One is about as faithful as theother, and in the matter of neatness they are just like otherpeople; it is six of one and half a dozen of the other. As totrustworthiness I have found certain ones are perfectlyreliable-- just as with other human beings." Those who areinterested in this subject will doubtless see that, althoughthese opinions of employers have no statistical value, they willhave a practical value for many readers, and especiallyif they open the eyes of the Philadelphia public, or even a smallpart of it, to the hitherto apparently unsuspected fact thatthere are grades among colored people, just as there are amongwhite people; and among colored servants as among white servants;that they are "just like other human beings;" some ofthem trustworthy, and others not; some of them "perfectlyreliable," and others the opposite of what that phraseexpresses exactly as with white people of their own class. Toclass the whole race together, or to class all colored domesticstogether, is to make a serious mistake.
17 Some time after the beginning of theinvestigation it was found to be practicable to get two recordsof length of service from each individual interviewed by addingthe question, "How long were you in your last place?"This question was then uniformly asked, which accounts for 875records of length of service from only 616 people personallyinterviewed. It must also be noted that the average is high,partly because the number of cases is small and includes a fewcases of exceptionally long-service periods.
18 L. M. Salmon, "Domestic Service," p.109.
19 Most of whom have employed both white and Negrodomestics.
From W.E.B. DuBois, The PhiladelphiaNegro. New York: Lippincott, 1899, Special Report (Part VII),pp. 474-489.
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