|Domestic Workers Rights are Human Rights|
Monday, March 12, 2012
Caring-for-Life work is the central metaphor for all care. It contains all other elements of care, including compassion, mental work and physical work. Just as water is the same whether it is in the form of a drop or an ocean, so everything done in the name of care can be found in the domestic work traditionally performed by women in the home without compensation. It can also be found in the work of the peasant farmer. It is for this reason that I use the term care to describe this work.
Women’s domestic work, care is taken for granted. It is the background and as a result has been given little thought and much of it remains out of awareness even to the women who do it. Embedded in women’s culture, it has a way of joining all women because it is done by women everywhere.
Some Care is done by all women. It is passed on from mother to daughter, it is done differently depending up the daughters place in the family. First born daughters have more responsibility for caring for younger brothers and sisters, helping mothers, and as a result learn to assume responsibility for care. First born daughters approach care with a greater sense of responsibility and desire for control than other daughters. When the first born is unavailable then the work falls to the second daughter. In general care work never falls to the sons.
Women of privilege may not pass along ways of working to their daughters because domestic servants perform domestic duties and not the women of the household. Although the woman of the household, the lady of the manor holds ultimate responsibility for the servants. Women of privilege who marry below their station, or who reject the ways of their families may not have the skills in managing a household that comes naturally to daughters born to peasant farmers and working class families.
In my own case, my birth mother was unskilled in domestic work. Her grandmother, Josephine Rowan Reid, was one of six daughters born to John Rowan, an attorney and slave owner whose family estate was the Old Kentucky Home. Rowan's cousin, Steven Foster made this home famous in his song sung each year at the Kentucky Derby. Josephine’s Daughter and my grandmother, Maud Reid Pearce was married to Cyrus Pearce, a financial magnate who was a founding board member of Caterpillar tractor and Pacific Gas and Electric. Maud also had servants. My birth mother, Eloise Pearce Humphrey,who never learned to art of care or child rearing for that matter, was at a loss when her husband divorced her after her third child was born. She had no skills and her father retained control of her financial resources in the form of a trust.
When her fourth child was born, out of wedlock, I was adopted by Cyrus Pearce’s personal secretary and guardian of Eloise’s trust, Mary O’Sullivan Jackson. My adopted mother was an Irish Immigrant who was brought to America along with her 5 siblings, at the age of 4. As the second eldest child whose mother died when she was 8 from TB, learned domestic work from her elder sister, Julia.
While I helped with some chores, specifically ironing and cooking, I was never taught to manage a household. My adopted mother told me, “you will be doing housework your whole life no need to start now.” Clearly, even my mother had no idea that care is a learned skill. As a result, I am unskilled in the art of managing a home. I was not allowed to take home economics in school since I was on the college prep track.
I come at care work as an outsider since I have no experience putting all of the pieces together and managing a household. To be continued….