Posted by Marie-Bernadette on July 07, 1998 at 18:46:54:
In response to Servants, written by JenniferB. on July 07, 1998 at 10:04:41
During the Regency period, why and how did people become servants?
For many, becoming a servant was considered a step up. It kept a lot of people out of the poor house. It was a way for a poor family to make ends meet. If one could send one's older children into service then there would be fewer to feed as well as a bit of extra income (and maybe they'd even send home a nice lemon sponge occasionally). Positions were advertised in the papers and also by word of mouth.
Going into service meant that a young man or woman would have room and board and a steady income. Some were so unfortunate as to be placed with an abusive employer but usually in that case the servant could move on to another situation. Some stayed with one family for years and others moved from place to place but either way the person was usually much better off than they would have been otherwise. Some were from such poor families that they never had regular meals until going into service. Situations varied greatly, but it was a positive occupation for most.
Was a housekeeper such as Mrs. Reynolds above normal servants?
Yes. Housekeepers were above the other servants. Well, the housemaids anyway. There was a pecking order. A parlour maid was above a chambre maid who was above a scullery maid. There was room for advancement, though. A scullery maid could eventually become a kitchen assitant and perhaps even someday become a cook. Being a ladies' maid was more prestigious than being one of the household servants that did the cleaning and washing up and so on, just as being a valet was more prestigious than being a footman.
Did people of servant families marry into others of a higher station? I am not certain, but I don't think so. Servant did sometimes marry each other, but I think that they would only marry others that were of the same status.
Did people become good friends with their servants?
Not friends exactly, because it was thought that familiarity bred contempt and the servants were expected to know their place, but I think some families became attached to some of their servants and greatly appreciated their services. I have the impression that rather than a friendship it was more like the way one becomes attached to a favourite pet. Also, if Stockwell has been cleaning your boots for the past thirty years and Cook knows just how you like your chocolate, well, it's comforting and gives one a sense of security. Personally, I can never find any of my servants when I want something. It's almost as if they do not exist! ;-)
- Thanks for the info. (nfm) Gayle 19:59:01 7/08/98 (0)
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