In response to the poor working conditions suffered by domestics struggling to survive the Depression, middle-class women's organizations initiated various legislative reforms aimed at tackling the problems they believed plagued the occupation. Throughout these years, organized women debated three key pieces of reform related to domestic service: efforts to suppress street-corner markets, health requirements for prospective domestics, and state-level wage and hour reform. These reforms were united by the rhetoric of privacy, which clubwomen used both to oppose wage and hour reform and to support requirements that domestics have physicals before applying for work. This article examines the fine distinction that middle-class women's organizations drew between public and private in the appropriate application of government power and the resulting conflict between progressive women's gender ideology and their most deeply-held reform ideals. In doing so, it reveals organized women's struggle to reconcile their humane ideals with the reality in their kitchens.


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pp. 14-38
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