Statement on Proposed Housemaid Union Strike, August 9, 1901


Bright Scheme of Some Chicago Housekeepers Who Fear Consequences of a Servant Girls' Strike.

Chicago, Aug. 8 .-- The recent organization of the Servant Girls' union, with its propaganda for shorter hours and higher wages, is held responsible by employment agents for the phenomenal demand that has recently sprung up for men to fill places formerly held exclusively by women.

Every employment office in the city is flooded by applications from housekeepers for men to wash dishes or to act as house servants. This is attributed by the agents to the fear of employers that their servants will soon be going on strikes or establishing boycotts, just as has been done in other lines of labor. Young women who have hitherto earned a livelihood as housemaids may soon be forced to other occupations, according to indications, if men can be found to take their places.

Advertisements appearing in the local press give color to the theory that there is fear among employers lest the Housemaid's union may lead to strikes in the kitchens of citizens and that men are being sought for the positions. For there is yet no talk of any move to organize the "men domestics" into a union. They are barred from membership in the Servant Girls' union. It is therefore thought certain that the men domestics will not join in any strike ordered by the union of the housemaids.


To guard against the chop being left to burn when the strike order comes it is deemed the part of wisdom by [householders] to have around at least one man domestic, who may act as a check and a substitute to the women rulers of the kitchen in case a serious crisis ever must be faced.

Here ae some of the advertisements inserted for the "men domestics" in local newspapers yesterday:

WANTED -- SMART YOUNG MAN TO do pantry work; wash dishes, clean silver, etc.



"Dishwashing and scrubbing are being done more and more by men," said Miss Jane Addams, speaking of the advertisements. "For dishwashing machines especially there seems to be a growing tendency to employ men. We have one of those machines at Hull House restaurant. It is seldom that a woman has run this machine. For the Hull House management I can say that there is no purpose to [replace] working women with men or to encourage infringement of either in the other's sphere. I have heard it said that fear of union housemaids' strikes may cause householders to engage men's services for work formerly done by women. I don't believe there is much likelihood that there will be any such development, at least not on a scale so extensive as to disturb well established customs and cause a revolution in the realm of the kitchen."


Confirmation of the increase in the demand for men domestics was obtained from records in the possession of George W. Geary, superintendent of the state free employment agency on the South Side. Mr. Geary is a strong advocate of labor unions, and he deplores the tendency to replace women with men in domestic service. He is very friendly to the Servant Girls' union, believing it will benefit both the housemaid and her employer.

"Whatever the cause, it is not to be denied that the demand for men domestics, as we call them in this office, is greatly on the increase," he said. "Often the women doing the hiring for the household say they prefer men for certain heavy lines of work. Others say they cannot find girls strong enough to do rough work and that even when the strength is present the willingness is not. It is my opinion that the Servant Girls' union is probably causing a mild scare as to the possibility of strikes, but that the fright will not be felt after it is thoroughly realized that the union housemaids intend to ask for no reform that may not be obtained by peaceable means."

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