Dora B. Montefiore, New Age March 1903

Women’s Interests

The Barmaid Question and Domestic Service.

Source: New Age, p.187, 19 March 1903;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

It was the barmaid question that was discussed last Tuesday evening at the Pharos Club, 3. Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. The case for them as against those who would supersede them entirely by men was stated by Countess Russell and opposed by Mr. Paul Vogel, secretary of the Waiters’ Union; whilst speeches for and again their retention were made by various men and women present, with the result that an almost unanimous vote was taken in favour of non-interference with the barmaid’s occupation. Mr. Paul Vogel in his speech showed the usual cloven hoof where questions of the employment of women are concerned, when such employment encroaches on that of men, and as usual endeavoured to obscure economic issues by emotional and conventional appeals. There is no doubt that the woman waitress is often preferred by the public for her neat-handedness and pleasantness of manner, and this would apply to the public’s preference for barmaids instead of barmen. Such preference is not misinterpreted where the supply of food and temperance drink is concerned; but when it becomes a question of serving alcoholic drinks, one of the objections made to the employment of barmaids is that they entice and persuade men to drink. This and other equally baseless objections were well dealt with by some of the speakers. What really seemed to emerge from the whole discussion was that both the hours and conditions of barmaids and of domestic servants should be regulated and improved; in a word that both classes of women should be placed under the Factory Acts, not with the ideas of closing these employments to women, but with the object of so improving the conditions under which they work that there may be no question of possible loss of health to the employee. A barmaid in a licensed house is a domestic servant plus her duties at the bar, and there can be no doubt from their own testimony that they find the life of the barmaid with its four hours off duty every day less exacting than that of the domestic servant, whose fate is generally to be at the other end of a bell from 6.30 till 10.30. What we should aim at in order to held them is a ten hours day all round, and inspection of the premises both in private and public houses in which employees work and sleep

The Domestic Servant Difficulty.

Meanwhile, what is known as the domestic question becomes more tense every day, and many ladies are taking up domestic service to supply the places of those of another class who have gone as waitresses, typists, or barmaids – anything in fact to escape social conditions which are outworn and, nowadays, intolerable. There are small and scattered attempts at training ladies for these duties, such as the Guild of Dames at Cheltenham, the Norland Institute in London, etc.; but in the end, these trained ladies, to live in, and to be exploited for indefinite hours, will become just as scarce as the almost extinct plain cook and house-parlourmaid. The real solution of the question will be in trained helps from all classes (just as sick nurses are drawn from all classes), who will live either in their own or in co-operative Homes, and who will go out daily for an eight or ten hours day to help others in their domestic duties. They will then be self-respecting wage-earners with leisure for pleasure, culture for rest, instead of being dependant menials, having to account to their employers for the spending of every hour of the day.

Women on the New Educational Authorities.

As was to be expected women are conspicuous by their absence on the new educational authorities, on which they were to be co-opted by the county and other Councils. The Lancashire County Council has two women to seventy men on its education committees, and the Manchester City Council has co-opted three women to fifty-one men. When one Manchester City Councillor suggested that, as under the old School Board the proportion of women to men was two to eleven, a larger representation of women under the new scheme would be fairer, he found no single supporter. Do working women realise that the education and training of their children will suffer considerably from the mother element being practically eliminated from our new scheme of national education?