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The Militant, 14 September 1946

Mille Fredreci

Working Mother Describes Domestic Servants Life

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 37, 14 September 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


If I could sing for a living, I wouldn’t be doing the hard work I’m doing now. Housework takes too much bending, pushing, shoving and walking about, picking up this and that, and jumping up and down like a jack-in-the-box. No job is really a good job, but some jobs are better than this!

I’ve often thought of doing needle point or of embroidering portraits on linen, but one has to be an artist to do portraits. My employer on Riverside Drive has just had a portrait of her dog done in oils – it cost $1,500. She had one done of herself, too – that’s bigger and cost $25,000.

Spending $26,500 for paintings didn't prevent her from being surprised when I told her she would have to furnish better meals for me and pay me $8 for an eight-hour day. She wanted to know why I wanted a raise.

I told her! Rolls which cost two cents last week, are two for a nickel today. Cheddar cheese has gone up from 55 cents to 69 cents a pound. The market is flooded with eggs, say the experts, but the price of eggs – tiny ones the size of a minute! – is 71 cents a dozen.

My employer rustled herself out to buy my lunch to make me “feel better about it.” She gave me two hamburgers, grapes and tea. What do you think she gave me for lunch before I demanded better food? Sometimes one egg, sometimes not a speck.

I’m not the worst off. Mathilda, the Madame’s laundress, is old enough to be my mother. She has been doing the Madame’s laundry for 12 years. Her ankles are swollen from strain. Her sight is impaired by the glare and steam that rise up when she irons the wet clothes. Mathilda has vacations – without pay.

Before she landed this job, Mathilda was one of thousands of women who stood on street corners during the depression, holding a scrub bucket in her hands. The Madame hired her like other cheap employers hired women: picked out the strongest looking one, and then paid her 25 cents an hour to wash windows, ceilings, walls and wood work, while the rich Mistress loafed.

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