Employers Take Advantage of Depression to Work Women Long Hours


Employers Take Advantage of Depression to Work Women Long Hours


West Philadelphia, unemployment agencies, domestic workers


This article argues that white employers are taking advantage of black women in domestic services during the Great Depression. Supposedly, because of the surplus of labor during this time, the white employer lowers the wages of their house servants and expects more service from them. In addition, the article asserts that the Depression has made women the bread winners of the family.


S. A. Haynes


Philadelphia Tribune


WCU, HIS 601/HON 452 Great Migration and Digital Storytelling, Fall 2014


January 19, 1933


Shila Scott, Erica Knorr


Used by permission of the Philadelphia Tribune Company, Inc. All rights reserved. The Philadelphia Tribune, with 130 years of continuous publication, is the oldest newspaper in the United States serving the African-American community.






There is confusion and despair in the ranks of Negro domestics, particularly the female contingent. The resources of local employment agencies are inadequate to meet the pressing demands of the unemployed. Long motley queues storm the doors of labor from sunrise to sunset. Hundreds trek daily in search of work with high hopes to cheer a heavy heart.
     The abundance of surplus labor has inspired white employers to take advantage of the situation. The standard wage of $3.00 per diem, plus car fare, for a day's work which prevailed in good times has been cut to $2.00 and in some cases $1.50, the worker paying her own car fare. Before the depression, cooks were well paid, especially those specializing in Southern dishes; they earned from $8.00 to $10.00 per week in small families, to $12.00 and $15.00 in large ones.
     Efficient maids and laundresses also earned substantial wages and those who did the housework received fair stipends. Waitresses recruited from employment agencies to serve at social functions of the rich and well-to-do were paid handsomely, both in wages and tips. Then, overtime work meant an extra dollar or two.
     But the fortunes of sons and daughters of the aristocracy on the Main Line, in suburban communities, in Germantown and West Philadelphia who kept retinues of Negro deomestics, have been wiped out and depletd by financial reverses. Scores of "For Sale" and "Fir Rent" signs which now grace the lawns of once mighy scions, and the steady migration to "apartment suites" in the city, tell the true story of the havoc wrought by the depression along the rialto of white society and family life--whence cometh the Negro's pay envelope.
     Not only have wages been reduced, but the Negro women are compelled to work longer hours under unfavorable conditions. Service women, those who stay in the homes of their employers, are virtual slaves.

Original Format





S. A. Haynes, “Employers Take Advantage of Depression to Work Women Long Hours,” Goin' North, accessed June 18, 2024, https://goinnorth.org/items/show/210.