In all families whose style of living demands help in the household duties, the management of servants is the great American puzzle. "Girls" come and go like the seasons, sometimes with the weeks. The one who is "such a treasure " to-day, packs her trunk and leaves her mistress in the lurch tomorrow, or, if she happens to have a conscience and works on faithfully, she becomes the mistress and runs the household in her own way, her employer living in mortal fear of offending and losing her. This state of things is due partly to the fact that all girls who go out to service, do so as a make-shift until they marry or obtain some more congenial work. Few of them have any ambition to do their work well, and few ever dream of making themselves a necessity in the family, becoming a part of it, sharing its joys and sorrows, and so establishing that honorable and close relation which exists between servants and families in Europe. Here, it is so much work for so much pay, and no bond of sympathy or attachment is allowed to spring up on either side. Another cause is the fact that too many American women, who ought to know better, regard work as degrading, instead of positively elevating and ennobling when it is well and conscientiously done. Is it wonderful that "girls" catch something of this vicious sentiment, and that it poisons their minds with false views of life, until they look upon their work as brutal drudgery, and strive to do as little of it as they possibly can and collect their wages?
Perhaps the reason why girls prefer situations in stores, or shops, or even factories, to housework, is that their work there is confined to certain hours, after which they are free, and it is quite possible that an arrangement which would give the domestic certain hours of the day for her own, would work a reform; or still better, certain reasonable tasks might be allotted her to do after which she would be free.
The fixed wages which prevail in most cities and towns offer no inducement for the "girl " to try to become skillful or expert at her work. Among men the best, neatest, and most skillful workman commands the largest pay, but the "girl" who is a superior cook, or maid of all work, gets only the same wages paid to a bungler who lives next door. Such a thing as a combination among ladies who employ help, to grade wages and protect each other from the imposition of untidy, dishonest, or indolent " girls," has never been made, and perhaps, indeed, it is no more called for than a combination of "girls" to protect themselves from lazy, tyrannical, or too exacting mistresses. Certain it is that the whole system by which domestics are hired and serve is demoralized beyond any speedy reform. All that any individual can do is to remedy its evils so far as is possible in her own family. In employing a new domestic, there should be the utmost frankness. She ought to be fully informed as to what she is expected to do, what her wages will be, and how paid, and what privileges will be granted. If she is not pleased, let her depart without regret. If you engage her, let her understand first and always that you are mistress, and claim the right to have the work done in your way, which, if you are as skillful a housewife as you ought to be, you will be able to show her is the best way. The mistress ought always to be able to do every thing better and quicker than any domestic ever dared think of doing it. If she gives orders which betray her ignorance, she may as well resign her scepter at once in shame and humiliation. No mistress who does not know how to do work herself can ever be just to her help; and even when she is a thorough housekeeper, a turn in the kitchen for a day or two will often be like a new revelation to her.
Above all, the utmost kindness should be shown, and the mistress of the house should always be mistress of her temper. She should put herself in the "girl's" place, and apply the golden rule in all dealings with her. Give unqualified praise when deserved, but never scold. If any thing is done improperly, take some proper time and have it done correctly, again and again if necessary. Give domestics all the privileges possible, and when obliged to deprive them of any customary indulgence, make it up soon in some other way. Never to find fault at the time an error is committed, if in the least irritated or annoyed, is an invaluable rule in the management of do-mestics or children, and indeed in all the relations of life. A quiet talk after ell feeling has subsided, will do wonders toward reform, while a sharp and bitter rebuke would only provoke to further disobedience. It is especially important and right to respect religious and conscientious scruples, no matter how light and misguided they may seem. To cherish what beliefs she pleases is an inalienable right. The care for the comfort and attractiveness of the domestic's room is also a duty which every generous mistress will cheerfully look after. The servant who is tucked away in a gloomy attic, unfinished, uncarpeted, and uncurtained except by cobwebs, with the hardest bed and the meanest bed-clothing in the house, can hardly be expected to be neat and tidy in her personal habits. But, after all, it will be impossible to secure and keep really good "girls" unless they can be won into sympathy and attachment to the family, so that they will regard themselves as a part of it, with a future identified with its fortunes. To do this, the mistress must respect her maid as a sensitive woman like herself, and not class her as a mere drudge of an inferior order of creation. She must recognize the fact that character, and not station or wealth, make the lady, and that it is possible for those who serve to respect themselves. She must let her domestics see that she does not consider their work degrading, but honorable, and that she does not for a moment expect them to regard it in any other light. Above all, she must never show them, by word, look, or action, that she "looks down" on them because of their work. By the cultivation of such amenities as these, the house may really be made a home for the domestic as, well as the family, and the mistress who has accomplished this may well congratulate herself on having escaped the worst and most perplexing ills of the life of the American housewife. In her efforts to bring about such a result, she may confidently count on meeting many cases of incompetence, stupidity, and even ingratitude, but the experiment itself is in the right direction; and if it fails of complete success, can not be wholly without good results.