Over the course of the 20th century, American domestic service changed from an occupation with a hierarchical, top-down structure to one in which relationships were more negotiated. Many forces shaped this transformation: shifts in women's role in society, both at home and in the work force; changes in immigration laws and immigrant populations; and the politicization of the occupation. Moreover, domestic workers themselves took advantage of the resulting circumstances to demand better treatment and a say in their working conditions.
An independent scholar, Alana Erickson Coble was an editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City and has published articles in that and other encyclopedias, and in Race and Reason and the Journal of International and Working-Class History. She has also worked in technology at MIT, Columbia and internet consultancies.