Monday, November 18, 2013

Aether Salon - Servants

This month’s Aether Salon saw a talk on the topic of servants by Miss Lisa Fargazer. Miss Fargazer currently holds the position of maid-of-all-work at the Murgam Asylum and demonstrated a great deal of knowledge about the types of positions and types of work available to a servant in the late 19th century.

Aether Salon  Servants 001Miss Fargazer

She observed that the servant class was numerous - about 5% of the population of Wales in 1981, according to a survey - and mainly female (96%) inside the house, and often young, between the ages of 10 and 15. Most of the servants were in great houses, which had an entire hierarchy of servants, ranging from the Land Steward and House Steward, to the Upper Staff, which consisted of the Butler, Housekeeper, Cook, Lady’s Maid, and Valet, to the Lower Staff, including Footmen, Chamber Maids, Parlor Maids, House Maids, Between Maids, Kitchen Maids, and Scullery Maids. New servants were found through word-of-mouth, servant registries, or advertisements. After the initial position, a servant needed good references for subsequent positions.

In contrast, the middle class households generally had a single servant, a maid-of-all-work. More affluent households would perhaps have a cook or nursemaid. A maid-of-all-work might be a young girl from a workhouse, but in any event would have a staggering variety of work to do, from morning until evening.

As a personal observation, the variety of inexpensive labor-saving devices available today not only reduces the call for this kind of labor, but reduces the burden on the lower class. One does not have to be affluent to afford a washer and dryer, for example, or access to a laundromat. This is quite a Good Thing.

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