In this Book

Unprotected Labor
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summary
May’s research began with the question of why women domestics had to wait until 1974 for protective labor legislation when many women industrial workers won a minimum wage and overtime pay as early as 1908. To answer this question, May offers a political history of domestic service, which formed the single largest category of women workers until 1940. She explores the public debate over domestic service, its regulation and reform, and domestic worker activism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the contexts of the larger women’s reform movement, labor activism, and public versus private spaces. The core issue, she argues, revolves around the fact that while working-class domestics defined the middle-class home as a public workplace, middle-class women employers firmly maintained that their homes were private spaces. May’s contribution comes through her investigation of the debates from both sides of the class divide, assessing domestics’ efforts to determine their own working conditions as well as the reform programs led by (or not led by) middle class women, who, though crucial to the industrial reform movement, were often unwilling to let government regulation into their private homes.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. vii-x
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. xi-xiv
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-16
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  1. 1. The Tyrant of the Household: The Debate over the “Servant Question” and the Privacy of the Middle-Class Home, 1870–1915
  2. pp. 17-42
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  1. 2. Sticking Together through Good Times and Bad: Immigrant Domestic Workers, Ethnic Communities, and Resistance
  2. pp. 43-71
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  1. 3. Encouraging the Good, Weeding Out the Bad, and Teaching the Ignorant: Women’s Organizations and Domestic Workers in New York City, 1870–1915
  2. pp. 72-105
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  1. 4. The “Enlightened Majority” versus the “Die-Hard Fringe”: The State and Reform of Domestic Service, 1915–1940
  2. pp. 106-145
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  1. 5. Every Domestic Worker a Union Worker: Middle-Class African American Organizations and Domestic Workers Confront Labor Exploitation during the Depression
  2. pp. 146-173
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  1. Epilogue: The Walls of Jericho
  2. pp. 174-182
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 183-220
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 221-240
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 241-246
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