(_Pictorial Review_)

One illustration made by a staff artist, with the caption, "The New Home

Assistant is Trained for Her Work."




WANTED: A HOME ASSISTANT--Eight hours a day; six days a week. Sleep and

eat at home. Pay, twelve dollars a week.

Whenever this notice appears in the Help Wanted column of a city

newspaper, fifty to one hundred answers are received in the first

twenty-four hours!

"Why," we hear some one say, "that seems impossible! When I advertised

for a maid at forty dollars a month with board and lodging provided, not

a soul answered. Why are so many responses received to the other


Let us look more closely at the first notice.

Wanted: A Home Assistant! How pleasant and dignified it sounds; nothing

about a general houseworker or maid or servant, just Home Assistant! We

can almost draw a picture of the kind of young woman who might be called

by such a title. She comes, quiet, dignified, and interested in our home

and its problems. She may have been in an office but has never really

liked office work and has always longed for home surroundings and home


I remember one case I was told of--a little stenographer. She had gladly

assumed her new duties as Home Assistant, and had wept on the first

Christmas Day with the family because it was the only Christmas she had

spent in years in a home atmosphere. Or perhaps the applicant for the

new kind of work in the home may have been employed in a department

store and found the continuous standing on her feet too wearing. She

welcomes the frequent change of occupation in her new position. Or she

may be married with a little home of her own, but with the desire to add

to the family income. We call these Home Assistants, Miss Smith or Mrs.

Jones, and they preserve their own individuality and self-respect.

"Well, I would call my housemaid anything if I could only get one,"

says one young married woman. "There must be more to this new plan than

calling them Home Assistants and addressing them as Miss."

Let us read further in the advertisement: "Eight hours a day; six days a

week." One full day and one half day off each week, making a total of

forty-four hours weekly which is the standard working week in most

industrial occupations. At least two free Sundays a month should be

given and a convenient week-day substituted for the other two Sundays.

If Saturday is not the best half day to give, another afternoon may be

arranged with the Home Assistant.

"Impossible," I can hear Mrs. Reader say, "I couldn't get along with

eight hours' work a day, forty-four hours a week." No! Well, possibly

you have had to get along without any maid at all, or you may have had

some one in your kitchen who is incompetent and slovenly, whom you dare

not discharge for fear you can not replace her. Would you rather not

have a good interested worker for eight hours a day than none at all?

During that time the Home Assistant works steadily and specialization is

done away with. She is there to do your work and she does whatever may

be called for. If she is asked to take care of the baby for a few hours,

she does it willingly, as part of her duties; or if she is called upon

to do some ironing left in the basket, she assumes that it is part of

her work, and doesn't say, "No, Madam, I wasn't hired to do that," at

the same time putting on her hat and leaving as under the old system.

The new plan seems expensive? "Twelve dollars a week is more than I have

paid my domestic helper," Mrs. Reader says. But consider this more

carefully. You pay from thirty-five to fifty dollars a month with all

the worker's food and lodging provided. This is at the rate of eight to

eleven dollars a week for wages. Food and room cost at least five

dollars a week, and most estimates are higher. The old type of

houseworker has cost us more than we have realized. The new system

compares favorably in expense with the old.

"I am perfectly certain it wouldn't be practical not to feed my helper,"

Mrs. Reader says. Under the old system of a twelve to fourteen-hour

working day, it would not be feasible, but if she is on the eight-hour

basis, the worker can bring a box-luncheon with her, or she can go

outside to a restaurant just as she would if she were in an office or

factory. The time spent in eating is not included in her day's work.

Think of the relief to the house-keeper who can order what her family

likes to eat without having to say, "Oh, I can't have that; Mary

wouldn't eat it you know."

"I can't afford a Home Assistant or a maid at the present wages," some

one says. "But I do wish I had some one who could get and serve dinner

every night. I am so tired by evening that cooking is the last straw."

Try looking for a Home Assistant for four hours a day to relieve you of

just this work. You would have to pay about a dollar a day or six

dollars a week for such service and it would be worth it.

How does the Home Assistant plan work in households where two or more

helpers are kept? The more complicated homes run several shifts of

workers, coming in at different hours and covering every need of the

day. One woman I talked to told me that she studied out her problem in

this way! She did every bit of the work in her house for a while in

order to find out how long each job took. She found, for instance, that

it took twenty-five minutes to clean one bathroom, ten minutes to brush

down and dust a flight of stairs, thirty minutes to do the dinner

dishes, and so on through all the work. She made out a time-card which

showed that twenty-two hours of work a day was needed for her home. She

knew how much money she could spend and she proceeded to divide the work

and money among several assistants coming in on different shifts. Her

household now runs like clockwork. One of the splendid things about this

new system is its great flexibility and the fact that it can be adapted

to any household.

Thoughtful and intelligent planning such as this woman gave to her

problems is necessary for the greatest success of the plan. The old

haphazard methods must go. The housekeeper who has been in the habit of

coming into her kitchen about half past five and saying, "Oh, Mary, what

can we have for dinner? I have just come back from down-town; I did

expect to be home sooner," will not get the most out of her Home

Assistant. Work must be scheduled and planned ahead, the home must be

run on business methods if the system is to succeed. I heard this

explained to a group of women not long ago. After the talk, one of them

said, "Well, in business houses and factories there is a foreman who

runs the shop and oversees the workers. It wouldn't work in homes

because we haven't any foreman." She had entirely overlooked her job as

forewoman of her own establishment!

"Suppose I have company for dinner and the Home Assistant isn't through

her work when her eight hours are up, what happens?" some one asks. All

overtime work is paid for at the rate of one and one-half times the

hourly rate. If you are paying your assistant twelve dollars for a

forty-four-hour week, you are giving her twenty-eight cents an hour. One

and one half times this amounts to forty-two cents an hour, which she

receives for extra work just as she would in the business world.

"Will these girls from offices and stores do their work well? They have

had no training for housework unless they have happened to do some in

their own homes," some one wisely remarks. The lack of systematic

preparation has always been one of the troubles with our domestic

helpers. It is true that the new type of girl trained in business to be

punctual and alert, and to use her mind, adapts herself very quickly to

her work, but the trained worker in any field has an advantage. With

this in mind the Central Branch of the Young Women's Christian

Association in New York City has started a training-school for Home

Assistants. The course provides demonstrations on the preparation of

breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and talks on the following:

House-cleaning, Laundry, Care of Children, Shopping, Planning work,

Deportment, Efficiency, and Duty to Employer. This course gives a girl a

general knowledge of her duties and what is even more important she

acquires the right mental attitude toward her work. The girls are given

an examination and those who successfully pass it are given a

certificate and placed as Trained Home Assistants at fifteen dollars a


The National Association would like to see these training-schools

turning out this type of worker for the homes all over the country. This

is a constructive piece of work for women to undertake. Housewives'

Leagues have interested themselves in this in various centers, and the

Y.W.C.A. will help wherever it can. There are always home economics

graduates in every town who could help give the course, and there are

excellent housekeepers who excel in some branch who could give a talk or


The course would be worth a great deal in results to any community. The

United States Employment Bureaus are also taking a hand in this, and,

with the coöperation of the High Schools, are placing girls as trained

assistants on the new basis. I have talked with many women who are not

only using this plan to-day but have been for several years.

It has been more than six years ago since Mrs. Helene Barker's book

"Wanted a Young Woman to Do Housework" was published.

This gave the working plan to the idea. Women in Boston, Providence,

New York, Cleveland, and in many other cities have become so

enthusiastic over their success in running their homes with the Home

Assistants that a number are giving their time to lecturing and talking

to groups of women about it.

Let me give two concrete illustrations of the practical application of

housework on a business basis.

Mrs. A. lives in a small city in the Middle West. Her household consists

of herself, her husband, and her twelve year old son. She had had the

usual string of impossible maids or none at all until she tried the new

system. Through a girls' club in a factory in the city, she secured a

young woman to work for her at factory hours and wages. Her assistant

came at seven-thirty in the morning. By having the breakfast cereal

prepared the night before, breakfast could be served promptly at eight,

a plan which was necessary in order that the boy get to school on time.

Each morning's work was written out and hung up in the kitchen so that

the assistant wasted no time in waiting to know what she had to do.

Lunch was at twelve-fifteen, and at one o'clock the Home Assistant went


She came back on regular duty at five-thirty to prepare and serve the

dinner. Except for times when there were guests for dinner she was

through her work by eight. When she worked overtime, there was the extra

pay to compensate. Mrs. A. paid her thirteen dollars a week and felt

that she saved money by the new plan. The assistant was off duty every

other Sunday, and on alternate weeks was given all day Tuesday off

instead of Sunday. Tuesday was the day the heavy washing was done and

the laundress was there to help with any work which Mrs. A. did not feel

equal to doing. Even though there are times in the day when she is

alone, Mrs. A. says she would not go back to the old system for


Mrs. B. lives in a city apartment. There are four grown people in the

family. She formerly kept two maids, a cook-laundress, and a

waitress-chambermaid. She often had a great deal of trouble finding a

cook who would do the washing. As her apartment had only one maid's

room, she had to give one of the guestrooms to the second maid. She paid

these girls forty dollars apiece and provided them with room and board.

Her apartment cost her one hundred and fifteen dollars a month for seven

rooms, two of which were occupied by maids.

Mrs. B. decided to put her household on the new business basis last

Fall. She moved into a five-room apartment which cost her ninety

dollars, but she had larger rooms and a newer building with more

up-to-date improvements than she had had before. She saved twenty-five

dollars a month on rent plus eighty dollars wages and about thirty

dollars on her former maids' food. All together she had one hundred and

thirty-five dollars which could be used for Home Assistants. This is the

way the money was spent:

A laundress once a week................................ $2.60

Home Assistant, on duty from 7.30 A.M. to 2 P.M........ 10.00

Home Assistant, on duty from 12 M. to 9 P.M............ 15.00



On this schedule the work was done better than ever before. There was no

longer any grievance about the washing. Mrs. B. had some one

continuously on duty. The morning assistant was allowed a half hour at

noon to eat her luncheon which she brought with her. As Mrs. B.

entertained a great deal, especially at luncheon, she arranged to have

the schedule of the two assistants overlap at this time of day. The

morning worker, it will be noted, was employed for only six hours. The

afternoon worker was a trained assistant and, therefore, received

fifteen dollars a week. She had an hour off, between three-thirty and

four-thirty and was on duty again in time to serve tea or afternoon

refreshments. If there were a number of extra people for dinner, the

assistant was expected to stay until nine and there was never any

complaining about too much company. Mrs. B. has a better apartment and

saves money every month besides!

* * * * *

(_New York Sun_)

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