Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Maids live....

This week RL was a bit more in focus, but enough time to think about of a bit of victorian times...

...especially about maids in the 19th century - here is some RL background for thinking about maids live at that times:

"A large majority of working-class girls in Victorian England entered domestic service at a young age.  Many began searching for placement by the time they had reached the age of twelve or thirteen, and by mid-century, the age when girls began searching for placement dropped to even younger ages, some girls were as young as eight years old when they first hired on! Most domestic servants were from a rural background because country boys and girls were considered more manageable and adaptable, as well as harder working than urban children.

The young servant’s first position was usually in a local country household before being placed into service in an urban household some 20-30 miles away because most employers did not wish to take into employment domestics from their own immediate area. They feared the young girls would take gossip about the family back to the local community; or they might have suitors following after them; or they might, at the first opportunity, run away back to their own homes.  It would be in this first position where a young girl could gain a little experience by helping with household chores, cooking, or taking care of children.

As noted in the 1871 census, almost 20% of all “nurses” in full-time domestic service were under the age of 15.  In fact, on the 1871 census, there were 710 girls listed that were employed as nurses, who were under the age of ten!

For most of these very young girls, life away from their own homes would be very different for them.   These first insignificant positions taught the girls some of the strict household standards they could expect in their future placements.  Even in the most unpretentious middle-class home, life was apt to be undeniably more demanding than they had experienced in their own cramped and impecunious living situation.  Many of these children would be placed in homes without even knowing the proper names of and uses for the common kitchen utensils and pieces of furniture that they would be expected to clean.  For most, this lack of knowledge was simply due to having never seen or used these items in their own lives, and this particular difficulty was most evident when children who came from orphanages and workhouses were placed into services. Although these youngsters were no strangers to hard work (having been expected to scrub floors, walls, and clean heavy rough wooden furniture in the orphanage), they had not a clue about the handling of expensive and delicate china pieces, or how to balance a tea tray, etc.  Sometimes the girls were just considered “stupid” because they were unfamiliar with the precious items found in even the humblest of middle-class homes.  Because of this, it was not uncommon for “better” families to avoid hiring workhouse girls. Typically, it was among artisans, small shopkeepers, and other employers where these young girls were most likely to find work.

As soon as a servant had received his or her placement, the daily rounds of hard work immediately began.  Hard work was, of course, the only way in which to accomplish the cleaning of a Victorian home.

Specific tasks were carried out, as defined by the strict , yet necessary daily routines of each staff member.

Each individual position carried its own list of expectations, which the servant was required to meet

Here is an example of some of the rules that the servants had to follow

1 - When being spoken to, stand still, keeping your hands quiet, and always look at the person speaking.

2 - Never let your voice be heard by the ladies and gentlemen of the household, unless they have spoken directly to you a question or statement which requires a response, at which time, speak as little as possible.

3 - In the presence of your mistress, never speak to another servant or person of your own rank, or to a child, unless only for necessity, and then as little as possible and as quietly as possible.

4 - Never begin to talk to the ladies or gentlemen, unless to deliver a message or to ask a necessary question, and then, do it in as few words as possible.

5 - Whenever possible, items that have been dropped, such as spectacles or handkerchiefs, and other small items, should be returned to their owners on a salver.

6 - Always respond when you have received an order, and always use the proper address:  “Sir”, “Ma’am”, “Miss” or “Mrs,” as the case may be.

7 - Never offer your opinion to your employer.
8 - Always “give room”:  that is, if you encounter one of your betters in the house or on the stairs, you are to make yourself as invisible as possible, turning yourself toward the wall and averting your eyes.

9 - Except in reply to a salutation offered, never say “good morning” or “good night” to your employer.

10 - If you are required to walk with a lady or gentleman in order to carry packages, or for any other reason, always keep a few paces back.

11 - You are expected to be punctual to your place at mealtime

12 - You shall not receive any Relative, Visitor or Friend into the house, nor shall you introduce any person into the Servant’s Hall, without the consent of the Butler or Housekeeper.

13 - Followers are strictly forbidden.  Any member of the female staff who is found to be fraternizing shall be immediately dismissed.

14 - Expect that any breakages or damages in the house shall be deducted from your wages.   

Here is a list of the average wages of female servants - These figures were collected by the Board of Trade in the 1890's.

          Age         Annual Wage
Between Maid     19         £10 - 7s
Scullery Maid     19         £13
Kitchen Maid     20         £15
Housemaid     21 - 25     £16 - 2s
Parlour Maid     25 - 30     £20 - 6s
Cook         25 - 30     £20 - 2s
Lady's Maid     30 - 36     £24 - 7s
Housekeeper     40         £35 - 6s
Housekeeper     40         £52 - 5s

In 1888 Butlers earned £45 per annum and had no expenses except clothes. They would make up their income from such perks as tradesman offering discounts to receive continued orders. Butlers would also collect the end of candles and one bottle of wine for every six opened.

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