Sunday, September 20, 2015

Etiquette and Gilded Age Servants

The "hired girl" is a phrase which has been banished from good society, and we say instead "the maids." – Servants are very imitative, and if those who employ them are gentle, soft voiced and uniformly polite they become so too. 

It is of great importance that girls who wish to show perfect breeding at every turn should know how to properly treat servants. These dependents, either in one's own household or in the homes of one's friends, are entitled to courtesy and consideration, and there is a well defined etiquette in regard to them.


Some girls act as if their inferiors were not to be recognized except when service is required of them and then adopt a manner of haughty disdain, demanding everything and taking the attitude that the servant is a mere machine. There is, of course, the other extreme that of intimacy with a servant, and the latter attitude is as much to be as the former.


Every girl of wealth in these luxurious days has her own maid and this domestic naturally comes into close contact with her. It is the maid's business to be at the beck and call of her young mistress at all hours, but the mistress should remember that the maid is human and not make unreasonable demands on her. 



It is unreasonable to expect perfection, for none of us possess it in any capacity, and it is unreasonable to expect an intelligence equal to your own, for if the maid had it she would be something of a higher order than a menial. Politeness is an important part of good manners with servants, and you are not only served better when you are courteous but you present to them a model of manners.


Servants are very imitative, and if those who employ them are gentle, soft voiced and uniformly polite they become so too. One should always preface or end an order with "Please," and one should say "Thank you" in acknowledgment of service. Do not say "Thanks," even to a servant as the word is no longer considered good form. Always say "Good morning" to the servants of your household and, also to other people's servants when they are known to you, as in the homes of your intimate friends.


As a rule, young girls rarely give orders to servants with the exception of their own maids, but often give orders for their mothers. There is only one correct form in which to do this. You must not say, "Mary, mother wishes you to go up to her room." But supposing your mother's name to be Mrs. Brown, you should say, "Mary, Mrs. Brown wishes you." etc... The formal prefix applies not only to your mother, but to all the other members of your family. Never say "father," "sister" or "brother" to a maid, but always "Mr. Brown," "Mr. Harold," if that is your brother's name, and "Miss Beatrice," supposing that to be your sister's. 



Do not call or refer to the domestics in your mother's establishment as "girls." The "hired girl" is a phrase which has been banished from good society, and we say instead "the maids" or "the women" when speaking of the servants if they are all of one sex. "When you are staying in other people's houses never give orders of any sort to the maids unless it be that one has been assigned to you for your own personal use, in which case, of course, you treat her as you would your own. Otherwise, when you wish things done, ask permission of the hostess to use a servant for this or that. And when at the table you must not request things directly of the maid, as etiquette requires, that you make your request to the hostess. –1909


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber is the Site Moderator and Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia