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Old 04-23-2016, 11:20 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Household Servants in England

I read somewhere "everybody had servants except the servants." I assume that was not true but maybe servants were a lot more common in the past. (pre WW 2?)

Did anyone outside the upper class have servants?
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Old 04-23-2016, 11:27 AM
silenus silenus is online now
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Of course they did, if only on a temporary basis sometimes. Read Bill Bryson's "At Home." He isn't the most reliable source for hard data, but his anecdotal info is massive. Even village rectors had a housekeeper and cleaning woman.
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Old 04-23-2016, 12:01 PM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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This was true in lots of America as well. Especially in the South, where having an African American housekeeper/nanny was really common until the Civil Rights era. But middle class people all over the country had servants for a long time - of course, the middle class was smaller, there were no minimum wage laws, and housework was a lot more time consuming - so having a "girl"come in was not very expensive and made life a lot easier if you didn't have girl children of the right age to help you out.
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Old 04-23-2016, 12:12 PM
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Read books like "The Railway Children". It amazed me that a woman with no income, and who's husband was in prison still had a servant.

It wasn't until WW2 that women began to, a) find better paid work elsewhere, and, b) See housework,especially for someone else, as drudgery.
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Old 04-23-2016, 12:29 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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No, it started much earlier. By the time of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, commentators were speaking of "the servant problem." The problem was that the lower-class girls who had gone into service were taking jobs in the much higher paying factories. Which indicates that the long hours, low wages, and terrible conditions in factories were preferable to what they were experiencing in houses.

This also coincides with the beginning of electrification. Over the next twenty years, virtually every household chore had a machine that made it much easier to do by the housewife. That included vacuum cleaners, stoves, washing machines, even toasters. By the 1920s it was expected that middle-class women run their own homes without servants. That had its irony: although the appliances made each individual chore easier and faster, the need to do them all by herself took up many more hours of her time.
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Old 04-23-2016, 12:55 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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Only the poorest had no servant, even if she was only a cook-general or a maid-of-all-work. Charles Dickens's family still had a servant, even when John Dickens was imprisoned for debt for a few weeks.
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Old 04-23-2016, 12:58 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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It certainly isn't true if you don't count farmers as household servants. Before 1800 the proportion of people working in agriculture in both the U.K. and the U.S. (and most other countries) was easily a majority. Since then the proportion of people employed in agriculture has dropped to about 2%. Some of those people owned their own farms and some worked for other people, but they weren't household servants.
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Old 04-23-2016, 01:20 PM
smiling bandit smiling bandit is offline
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
It certainly isn't true if you don't count farmers as household servants. Before 1800 the proportion of people working in agriculture in both the U.K. and the U.S. (and most other countries) was easily a majority. Since then the proportion of people employed in agriculture has dropped to about 2%. Some of those people owned their own farms and some worked for other people, but they weren't household servants.
Indeed.

While the traditional middle class frequently had servants, that class was also much, much smaller than most people realize. Those living in cities were very often a privileged group until quite recently in history. Cities were also tiny in comparison as well, and the populace consisted of professional managers, scholars, and merchants. They could easily hire a reasonably-sized pool of inexpensive laborers. With the advent of industrialization, the cities expanded and so, too, did the middle classes. However, for a couple centuries, this meant a the migration of population from rural to urban centers. The countryside simply didn't need the labor due to improved agricultural practices, the transportation revolution, and the introduction of machinery. This meant a constantly growing urban population and another source of inexpensive labor at the same time the middle classes were growing in size in power, and that as families climbed the economic ladder they could easily afford some help.

While the quote in the OP is certainly exaggerated, it's not entirely misleading. But it does apply only to the a small slice of the human population, and later to a broader cross-section but which is limited in time.
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Old 04-23-2016, 01:48 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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It seems strange to me that you had people who hated black people but would still hire them as nannies for their children. I guess they just wanted to hire someone who worked cheap? (I should add I'm sure that not everyone who hired a black nanny was racist. )

Last edited by Bijou Drains; 04-23-2016 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 04-23-2016, 03:02 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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You misunderstand the nature of their feelings. They didn't think of blacks as evil, conniving people who might indeed be geniuses of crime. They thought of blacks as not quite human sorts who could handle lower-level work like being a household servant well enough but who couldn't be trusted to higher-level work. If blacks did something evil, it was because they were either too easily lead by their emotions or because some outsider white person was stirring them up. They didn't want blacks to go away. They wanted them to know their place and work cheaply.
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Old 04-23-2016, 03:58 PM
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Not England, but in Norway, looking over farm censuses in the first half of the 19th century, it would be common for even a small sub-farm to have a servant girl and maybe a boy to help about. If you were the main farmer, you could have several more.

In towns, if the householder ran a business, it would be common to have not just a servant girl or two, but a apprentice/assistant. But small households would have just a husband/wife and some kids.

Teenagers and (usually) young adults commonly worked in other people's homes/farms/businesses until they got enough money together to get their own place (something that you could earn a living from) and only then get married. If you never got enough, you didn't get married.

Hence my grandmother's comment about the Norwegian girls who would come to the US supposedly to earn enough to go back and get married. "But they never did."

Now that I think about it. The last person I knew who worked as a live-in servant when she was young died a few weeks ago. Don't think I know anyone else who did that.
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Old 04-23-2016, 04:11 PM
slash2k slash2k is offline
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
It certainly isn't true if you don't count farmers as household servants. Before 1800 the proportion of people working in agriculture in both the U.K. and the U.S. (and most other countries) was easily a majority. Since then the proportion of people employed in agriculture has dropped to about 2%. Some of those people owned their own farms and some worked for other people, but they weren't household servants.
No, but in examining census returns, you'll find a fair number of those farm households had one or more "extra" females present, sometimes relatives and sometimes hired help. Particularly in households that did not have any daughters of the right age, that's who ended up doing much of the cooking and cleaning. Even farm families could have enough wealth to afford a servant or two. Not everybody was a subsistence farmer.
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Old 04-23-2016, 04:29 PM
kunilou kunilou is online now
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No, but in examining census returns, you'll find a fair number of those farm households had one or more "extra" females present, sometimes relatives and sometimes hired help. Particularly in households that did not have any daughters of the right age, that's who ended up doing much of the cooking and cleaning. Even farm families could have enough wealth to afford a servant or two. Not everybody was a subsistence farmer.
My aunt went straight from being a farmer's daughter to working as a maid "in town." Since the town had less than 1,000 people and they all depended on the surrounding farms, somebody had to be doing okay. My mother also worked as a maid for a couple of years between high school and nursing school.
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Old 04-23-2016, 05:46 PM
Isilder Isilder is offline
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homes vs tennaments.


You call it low paid, but the "servant" got
* board and lodgings ... a room, food, the ability to look after herself (beauty, haircuts, clothes... )
* apprenticeship at home science
* an upgrade in social circles... perhaps becoming a Mistress is better than becoming a Wife .. because the man can have anyone as a Mistress but a wife has to be from approved stock.

The servant got to escape sharing a room with her 8 brothers and sisters, being dragged into bar work and prostitution, or working at factory, mine, street cleaning and so on. and escaped the suburbs where if a girl was raped then the police said "He was drunk, you shouldn't let him get drunk then !" and did nothing...

Why were all these families crowded into a single room ?

What happened was that UK's serfs, which in such a modern economy are the farming families who rented land off the farmer, got LAND RIGHTS. Oh they didn't win the land instantly and had no right to go back to claim land they were on last week if they had already left it, but the law allowed them to claim the right to purchase the land they were currently the farmers of... Other side the coin ? No more serfs.. serfs were ejected and the farmer would let the land turn into forest rather than be forced to selling it to the serfs.

There were other land rights issues... eg the clans were living on what was crown land, and when they got title, the title got put in the name of the chief..
Who could sell it serfless and go and live in London.

Last edited by Isilder; 04-23-2016 at 05:51 PM.
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Old 04-23-2016, 05:47 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
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This was true in lots of America as well. Especially in the South, where having an African American housekeeper/nanny was really common until the Civil Rights era. But middle class people all over the country had servants for a long time - of course, the middle class was smaller, there were no minimum wage laws, and housework was a lot more time consuming - so having a "girl"come in was not very expensive and made life a lot easier if you didn't have girl children of the right age to help you out.
In my neighborhood of houses built from the 1890s to the 1920s, virtually all the houses have maid's quarters in the back, as a separate building or attached to the garage. Some people have fixed them up and rent them out for additional income, use them as studios or granny flats; mine is my laundry room. And this was NOT a wealthy neighborhood (and still isn't). It was solidly middle-class.

I was always fascinated in the Bertie Wooster novels (set in the teens and 20s) how it was a given that a single man couldn't possibly be expected to survive without the full time (24/7, not 40 hrs/week) services of, at a minimum, a housekeeper, butler (Jeeves), and possibly a cook, too. And these were guys who didn't work at jobs, but just, well... messed around all day.
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Old 04-23-2016, 06:10 PM
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When I was a child in the 40s/50s we had servants. Of course, since we were in West Africa, they were black. A couple of them stayed with us for several years - we would go home on leave for three months, and when we got back, even if it was to a different house, there they would be.

As an aside - the 'N' word was never used - they were Africans or Natives. Father used to 'borrow' a gang from the prison to do the gardening. I remember a visiting Englishwoman having a fit when she found out the the black men cutting the grass with razor sharp machetes were convicts.
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Old 04-23-2016, 08:26 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isilder View Post
homes vs tennaments.


You call it low paid, but the "servant" got
* board and lodgings ... a room, food, the ability to look after herself (beauty, haircuts, clothes... )
* apprenticeship at home science
* an upgrade in social circles... perhaps becoming a Mistress is better than becoming a Wife .. because the man can have anyone as a Mistress but a wife has to be from approved stock.
In the U.S., we know what the vast majority of people in those circumstances at that time thought of the comparison. They chose factories.

And how long did the U.K. system of service last after WWI?
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Old 04-23-2016, 10:10 PM
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The reason the factories won over service is wages. A factory worker generates wealth whereas a servant just sucks wealth from a wealthy family. Yes the wealthy family could afford to have servants while wages were low but they didn't generate any income for the family.
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Old 04-23-2016, 10:33 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
I was always fascinated in the Bertie Wooster novels (set in the teens and 20s) how it was a given that a single man couldn't possibly be expected to survive without the full time (24/7, not 40 hrs/week) services of, at a minimum, a housekeeper, butler (Jeeves), and possibly a cook, too. And these were guys who didn't work at jobs, but just, well... messed around all day.
This is somewhat exaggerated. Bertie is definitely wealthy upper-class and can pay for all the help he wants, but in his bachelor apartment he doesn't have any servants other than Jeeves. This remains the case in all the Bertie Wooster novels from the 1910's to the 1970's.

And just to nitpick, not even Jeeves is literally on duty 24/7. He gets his regular afternoon out and occasional days off and vacations, just as other typical servants of the period would expect to do (though of course Jeeves is more likely to have his leisure interrupted by emergencies than the average servant).

Some of Bertie's single male contemporaries do live in country houses with full staffs, but that's because they're basically estates, with tenants and what-not. The number of servants considered necessary depends not on the size of the family but on the size of the house/estate.
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Old 04-23-2016, 11:34 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
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Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
This is somewhat exaggerated. Bertie is definitely wealthy upper-class and can pay for all the help he wants, but in his bachelor apartment he doesn't have any servants other than Jeeves. This remains the case in all the Bertie Wooster novels from the 1910's to the 1970's.

And just to nitpick, not even Jeeves is literally on duty 24/7. He gets his regular afternoon out and occasional days off and vacations, just as other typical servants of the period would expect to do (though of course Jeeves is more likely to have his leisure interrupted by emergencies than the average servant).

Some of Bertie's single male contemporaries do live in country houses with full staffs, but that's because they're basically estates, with tenants and what-not. The number of servants considered necessary depends not on the size of the family but on the size of the house/estate.
My point was not whether Bertie could afford it, but the assumption that a single man living alone couldn't manage without some kind of household help.

If your point was to show you know more about this subject than I do, you accomplished that.
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Old 04-23-2016, 11:38 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
It seems strange to me that you had people who hated black people but would still hire them as nannies for their children. I guess they just wanted to hire someone who worked cheap? (I should add I'm sure that not everyone who hired a black nanny was racist. )
The saying I've heard about the difference in white attitudes toward black people in the South vs. the North was that down south, they don't care how close you get, as long as you don't rise too high, while up north, they don't care how high you rise, as long as you don't get too close.
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Old 04-24-2016, 12:07 AM
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I once owned a home that was a 'Denver Square'. It had a bricked over stairway for the servants.
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Old 04-24-2016, 12:53 AM
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In the days when running a household was at least one, possibly two, people's work, there were a lot more household servants about than you'd think. It's just that sometimes they were also known as "Our Millie, the eldest"

The neighbors, with three under five, who employed "Our Millie's little sister Sally" to help with the babies might then be counted as part of the servant-employing class, rather than the servant-providing class. But it would change back again in four or five years, when the neighbor's eldest was big enough to wring out the clothes in a mangle.
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Old 04-24-2016, 02:12 AM
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I've seen 1880 census records for my mother's great-grandparents, a middle-class family living in Hackney, not a fancy part of London. The husband was a teacher (not a well-paid profession), and they had 3 young children and a servant, age 67.
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Old 04-24-2016, 03:04 AM
Shakester Shakester is offline
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My point was not whether Bertie could afford it, but the assumption that a single man living alone couldn't manage without some kind of household help.

If your point was to show you know more about this subject than I do, you accomplished that.
Kimstu's point is that Bertie Wooster was wealthy and privileged. He was not at all average, and most "single men living alone" in his era didn't have servants and were not expected to.

Also, Jeeves was not a butler, he was a valet. A valet was/is a "gentleman's personal gentleman" while a butler was the boss of a large household's servant population. They're quite different jobs, though Jeeves did prove he could also "butle" in one of the stories, when he had to fill in for a missing butler.

Last edited by Shakester; 04-24-2016 at 03:08 AM.
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:25 AM
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It still is kinda true in many developing countries (if you squint and interpret the question in just the right way).

In many developing countries' cities, the kind of salaries you can earn as a professional, and the cost of renting apartments in the city itself, make the hourly rate of a cleaner, cook, nanny etc seem negligable. So just about every professional working in the city will pay for such services.

But is your cook / cleaner etc your "servant"? What about someone tutoring your children?

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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
They didn't think of blacks as evil, conniving people who might indeed be geniuses of crime. They thought of blacks as not quite human sorts who could handle lower-level work like being a household servant well enough but who couldn't be trusted to higher-level work.
Yep, a similar thing to their feelings about women...

Last edited by Mijin; 04-24-2016 at 04:27 AM.
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:47 AM
Bones Daley Bones Daley is offline
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Kimstu

Also, Jeeves was not a butler, he was a valet. A valet was/is a "gentleman's personal gentleman" while a butler was the boss of a large household's servant population. They're quite different jobs, though Jeeves did prove he could also "butle" in one of the stories, when he had to fill in for a missing butler.
Absolutely correct.

Actually, the minimum staff requirement for a butler was to have at least one footman serving under him.
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:56 AM
glee glee is offline
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But is your cook / cleaner etc your "servant"? What about someone tutoring your children?
I have had a cleaning lady and a gardener for years (they work for me a few hours each week.)
I don't think of them as "servants" - but you're welcome to give your own definition for them.

Also I've taught chess to kids of friends - I define myself as a professional, not a servant.
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:58 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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Kimstu's point is that Bertie Wooster was wealthy and privileged. He was not at all average, and most "single men living alone" in his era didn't have servants and were not expected to.
On the other hand, they also weren't expected to cook and clean. That was wimmin's work.

Single poorer (than Wooster) men would have employed a variety of means to ensure that - eg, living with their parents, living in a lodging house, living as a paid lodger in a family home. But I doubt many of them would have done their own laundry.
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Old 04-24-2016, 05:18 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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I have had a cleaning lady and a gardener for years (they work for me a few hours each week.)
I don't think of them as "servants" - but you're welcome to give your own definition for them.
Agreed...it was a rhetorical question.
I'm just saying if we were to define servant in a modern and non-pejorative sense, then they are still common in many countries. But of course the word servant *isn't* modern and non-pejorative.
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Old 04-24-2016, 06:14 AM
Urbanredneck Urbanredneck is offline
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Along with what was mentioned above, dont forget the telephone and the typewriter as womens emancipators.

With the telephone you needed operators and at one time 1 in 4 working women were telephone operators.

Then the typewriter and with those you needed secretaries so even more jobs for women.


As for houseservants yes almost every middle class American family had one.
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Old 04-24-2016, 06:16 AM
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We are not middle class (I don't think so anyway - define middle class?) but we employ a lady, a few hours a week to clean and do ironing. Is she a servant? She doesn't think of herself that way and nor do we.
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Old 04-24-2016, 07:29 AM
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The idea of servants was so much a part of the US, that Herbert Hoover assumed that the Depression could be dealt with by people going into domestic service, and having to be told that people didn't have servants anymore. When Hooverwas young, that was an potential option.

I know my grandparents had live-in help.
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Old 04-24-2016, 02:40 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Kimstu's point is that Bertie Wooster was wealthy and privileged. He was not at all average, and most "single men living alone" in his era didn't have servants and were not expected to...
Most bachelors in the era either lived in their family home (in which case their mother and/or sisters did a lot of the domestic work) or in a boarding house (with the landlady serving as an ersatz-mother).
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:10 PM
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...or in a boarding house (with the landlady serving as an ersatz-mother).
Is that the "Sherlock Holmes" dynamic?
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Old 04-24-2016, 04:53 PM
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bob++ Check this out to see if you are middle class. From Pew research

Your size-adjusted household income is the sole factor we use to determine your income tier. Middle-income households those with an income that is two-thirds to double the U.S. median household income had incomes ranging from $41,869 to $125,608 in 2014. Lower-income households had incomes less than $41,869 and upper-income households had incomes greater than $125,608 (all figures computed for three-person households and expressed in 2014 dollars)
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Old 04-25-2016, 04:55 AM
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Not England, but in Norway, looking over farm censuses in the first half of the 19th century, it would be common for even a small sub-farm to have a servant girl and maybe a boy to help about. If you were the main farmer, you could have several more.

In towns, if the householder ran a business, it would be common to have not just a servant girl or two, but a apprentice/assistant. But small households would have just a husband/wife and some kids.

Teenagers and (usually) young adults commonly worked in other people's homes/farms/businesses until they got enough money together to get their own place (something that you could earn a living from) and only then get married. If you never got enough, you didn't get married.
There's no need to preface that with the caveat 'Not England', as the pattern was much the same in England even in the early nineteenth century.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner
It certainly isn't true if you don't count farmers as household servants. Before 1800 the proportion of people working in agriculture in both the U.K. and the U.S. (and most other countries) was easily a majority. Since then the proportion of people employed in agriculture has dropped to about 2%. Some of those people owned their own farms and some worked for other people, but they weren't household servants.
Except that it was nowhere near that simple. Lots of farmers employed servants. In the early modern period over a quarter of households in rural areas had them. So while it wasn't most households, it wasn't at all unusual even for relatively small-scale tenant farmers to employ them.

But what did they mean by a 'servant'. That's when it gets complicated. The duties of such servants on a farm would be many and would typically include work around the house and outside. The exact balance would partly depend on gender, as 'men's work' tended to be more outdoors and 'women's work' more indoors. However in households with only one or two servants, it would always have involved a mixture of both. A male servant might have been primarily an agricultural labourer but still be expected to wait at table, polish his master's boots, run errands etc. One effect of this is that it wasn't until the nineteenth century that the word 'servant' becomes associated specifically with domestic service. What's more, the word remained sufficiently ambiguous that it plays havoc with the attempts by historians to count servants in later census records.

One specific reason made the employment of servants even more common in pre-industrial England than one might expect. Boys and girls who we would think of as teenagers were almost always sent away from home. This was usually so that they could be employed as servants. Families with teenagers even preferred to send them to work in other people's houses and then to employ other people's teenagers as their own servants. Why? Because it made disciplining them so much easier. The result was that a significant proportion of the adult population had been in service at some point.
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Old 04-25-2016, 05:21 AM
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Is that the "Sherlock Holmes" dynamic?
Yup, although his landlady only had the one tenant. Those boarding houses were still quite common in the 1950s; the short-term stay version is the BnB, many of which will be perfectly happy to accept long-term tenants with slightly different arrangements.
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Old 04-25-2016, 06:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
Along with what was mentioned above, dont forget the telephone and the typewriter as womens emancipators.
There's a quotation from (I think) GK Chesterton - something along the lines of "A generation of young women arose and said to their fathers 'I will not be dictated to' - and went out to become stenographers".
  #40  
Old 04-25-2016, 06:13 AM
PatrickLondon PatrickLondon is offline
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PS: My grandmother was a "cook-general" in her early adult life, in a doctor's family around 1900: there's a book by Monica Dickens, "One Pair of Hands" relating her experiences doing the same sort of job in the 1930s. If you ever saw the TV series Upstairs Downstairs, there's one storyline later on when the downtrodden kitchenmaid Ruby goes off to get a job on her own as sole household servant to a real cow, and has to be rescued by Mrs Bridges. It was an interesting example of the hierarchies within hierarchies, where the aristocrat's cook/housekeeper tears a strip off the middle-class slave-driver as someone not fit to employ servants.
  #41  
Old 04-25-2016, 06:36 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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My grandmother was daughter of a British colonial attorney in the early 1900s and had a full-time maid, cook and various other household staff. My mother was borin in the early 40s in the UK with a part-time nanny and cook - until just after WWII when wealth distribution drastically changed. When I was a kid in the UK in the late 1960s my parents paid one of my immigrant Caribbean cousins to nanny me while my mother went out and worked, which ceased when my sister came along. My children will have nothing.
  #42  
Old 04-25-2016, 09:28 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
My children will have nothing.
No daycare?

One of the shifts has been which work was done in the house vs outside. Laundry has, in many countries, moved to the house - at the very least, in any developed country it has moved to being done indoors and by a machine (with some specific exceptions); childcare and training/schooling has moved to collective options, performed outside the house. When I started 1st grade, not a single public school in my home town offered preschool; the three private schools offered two grades of it. Nowadays every single school offers those two years and several (both public and private) offer three.

Last edited by Nava; 04-25-2016 at 09:29 AM.
  #43  
Old 04-25-2016, 11:28 AM
Spavined Gelding Spavined Gelding is offline
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For what it is worth, mu mother-in-law was hired out to a neighboring family as a "hired girl"as a teen-age in the late 1920s - early 1930s. This was in rural NW Missouri and appears to have been fairly common. She lived with her employers, went to school and returned after school to do housework. I think her folks got her pay.

Servants seem to have been fairly common in the Old Army. I have a recollection of a Black live-in maid at Fort Sam Huston in 1944-1945. Her name was Cora and she and her common-law husband lived in a little three room cottage in the back yard--until one dark night Cora took it upon herself to shoot the guy. I remember the turmoil but I have no idea what set it off. My father was a mere Captain so Cora could not have been too expensive.

Our Army quarters in the United States and in Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s had servants' quarters as part of the deal. They made great storage rooms.
  #44  
Old 04-25-2016, 01:24 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aspidistra View Post
Single poorer (than Wooster) men would have employed a variety of means to ensure that - eg, living with their parents, living in a lodging house, living as a paid lodger in a family home. But I doubt many of them would have done their own laundry.
Well, in the days before washing machines pretty much nobody middle-class or higher did their own laundry. Soiled items were collected, washed, pressed and returned by your laundry service, with an accompanying written record to specify which items were yours (hence the expression "laundry list" to describe a long catalogue of miscellaneous items).

The wealthy had laundry workers who made house calls to clean and iron their textiles on-site, or possibly even a resident laundress who was permanently in charge of the household washing.

Non-wealthy middle-class women were more likely than their male peers to hand-wash small or delicate items themselves, but they sent most of the washing to the laundry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by glee
I have had a cleaning lady and a gardener for years (they work for me a few hours each week.)
I don't think of them as "servants" - but you're welcome to give your own definition for them.
That's kind of like the old-fashioned laundry model: an independent business with multiple clients works on your tasks for part of the time and on other people's the rest of the time. I agree that those people in conventional usage would not be called your "servants".

Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou
My point was not whether Bertie could afford it, but the assumption that a single man living alone couldn't manage without some kind of household help.
Which is a valid point, but you significantly overstated the amount of household help such a man was considered to need:
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou
[...] it was a given that a single man couldn't possibly be expected to survive without the full time (24/7, not 40 hrs/week) services of, at a minimum, a housekeeper, butler (Jeeves), and possibly a cook, too.
Emphasis added. No, that wasn't the "minimum" level of household help considered necessary in those circumstances, nor anything like it. In fact, that kind of in-house dedicated staff for a single man living alone would have been considered an absurdly and uselessly extravagant super-maximum even for a wealthy quasi-aristocrat like Bertie Wooster, unless he maintained a fairly significant house rather than a bachelor flat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou
If your point was to show you know more about this subject than I do, you accomplished that.
You're welcome, it was no trouble.

Last edited by Kimstu; 04-25-2016 at 01:24 PM.
  #45  
Old 04-25-2016, 01:33 PM
doreen doreen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
No daycare?

One of the shifts has been which work was done in the house vs outside. Laundry has, in many countries, moved to the house - at the very least, in any developed country it has moved to being done indoors and by a machine (with some specific exceptions); childcare and training/schooling has moved to collective options, performed outside the house. When I started 1st grade, not a single public school in my home town offered preschool; the three private schools offered two grades of it. Nowadays every single school offers those two years and several (both public and private) offer three.
Yes - even if a household doesn't have any traditional servants, they can hire out all the work that was done by servants in the past. I can send my laundry out, hire someone to do my yardwork, use a day care center for childcare, hire a housecleaner for a few hours a week , and avoid cooking my meals through some combination of frozen foods , take out and those private chef services that prepare and deliver a weeks worth of meals. The main difference between now and then is that the workers perform a single function (the laundry, cooking, cleaning and childcare are done by different people) and do not work for a single household. Someone working full-time for a single household (doing the cooking, cleaning, child care, laundry ) is dependent on that household in a way that the housecleaner with 25 clients isn't dependent on any single one of them.
  #46  
Old 04-25-2016, 03:15 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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In L.P. Hartley's "The Go-Between", set in 1900, the one character is a former soldier and tenant farmer. The men of the manor are speculating whether he "...has a woman"; the narrator, young and naive, pipes up "he told me he does, she come in on Mondays." The older fellows laugh at his misunderstanding. So even a single tenant farmer took advantage of the independent business model of servant (and also of the daughter of the manor).

The servant model solves a major economic problem; food and lodging are a lot cheaper than paying cash for the person to be able to purchase those services themselves. the only real extra expense is the extra food. (My father had an amusing anecdote about his Uncle, "Cherry Red", so named because of his face colour. They were visiting his farm, and there were a few boys from the families plus the young hired hand at the breakfast table. Red says "anyone want some more?" and the hired hand pipes up "yes please." He replies "Wot? Can't hear you." The fellow again says "yes, please." Cherry again says "Wot? Can't hear you!" and the hired hand catches on and says "no thanks." I doubt many servants ate too well, depending on the generosity of the employer.)

Also, trying to remember the movie I saw recently where the older servant was getting well past her prime and the others were covering for her because they were afraid the cranky lord or lady would toss a 75-year-old lady out on her ear when she could no longer perform. That was another benefit of servanthood, it was a way for older ladies (who would outlast their husband if they survived childbirth) to have a room and meals in their old age.
  #47  
Old 04-25-2016, 04:06 PM
Atamasama Atamasama is online now
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My wife and I both work. We have a young daughter not yet in school. We pay the wife of my mother-in-law's coworker to come over during the day and watch our daughter. She has a child of her own about the same age and brings her as well. She sometimes straightens up but that's out of politeness/boredom, not because we ask her or expect her to.

Is she a servant? She's only there on weekdays when we're both working. Her husband makes a pretty good income. She just earns extra cash doing what she'd normally be doing during the day, except she's watching 2 kids instead of just 1, she's at someone else's house, and makes some extra money doing it. We just call her "the babysitter". The arrangement doesn't seem to match the circumstances of the old "servant" model but it might be the modern equivalent.

My wife and I, between us, would be high up in the "middle income" range.
  #48  
Old 04-25-2016, 06:48 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atamasama View Post
Is she a servant? She's only there on weekdays when we're both working. Her husband makes a pretty good income. She just earns extra cash doing what she'd normally be doing during the day, except she's watching 2 kids instead of just 1, she's at someone else's house, and makes some extra money doing it. We just call her "the babysitter".
I agree that she's not a "servant" as the term is commonly understood. I'm not sure the word "servant" in the domestic sense was ever routinely applied to visiting part-time employees, except in a collective sense. (E.g., if your domestic staff consisted of a cook, a housemaid, and a charwoman who came in three times a week for heavy cleaning, you might call them "the servants" as a group for convenience.)

Calling people your "servants" when they are not actually part of your household would probably come across as pretentious and snobbish, as though you're trying to make your establishment sound grander than it is.

And these days, at least in the US, even the people who actually employ full-time domestic servants seem to call them "household staff" or some such.
  #49  
Old 04-25-2016, 07:01 PM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
I agree that she's not a "servant" as the term is commonly understood. I'm not sure the word "servant" in the domestic sense was ever routinely applied to visiting part-time employees, except in a collective sense. (E.g., if your domestic staff consisted of a cook, a housemaid, and a charwoman who came in three times a week for heavy cleaning, you might call them "the servants" as a group for convenience.)

Calling people your "servants" when they are not actually part of your household would probably come across as pretentious and snobbish, as though you're trying to make your establishment sound grander than it is.

And these days, at least in the US, even the people who actually employ full-time domestic servants seem to call them "household staff" or some such.
I think it depends on time and place and social structure. I think that the black housekeepers of the South who went home at night but were employed by a single family would have been considered servants by the people who employed them.

The person who used to clean my house twice a week was a housekeeper. Or my mother
  #50  
Old 04-26-2016, 05:39 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
Well, in the days before washing machines pretty much nobody middle-class or higher did their own laundry. Soiled items were collected, washed, pressed and returned by your laundry service, with an accompanying written record to specify which items were yours (hence the expression "laundry list" to describe a long catalogue of miscellaneous items).

The wealthy had laundry workers who made house calls to clean and iron their textiles on-site, or possibly even a resident laundress who was permanently in charge of the household washing.
My great-grandmother was actually revolutionary in offering the first instead of the second, in Barcelona c. 1910. No laundry list, though, as she was illiterate (she later learned to read).
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