Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Treating Servants Fairly

Not all servants in the early 20th century were as well-treated or content as those characters which were depicted in television’s “Downton Abbey.” Some common courtesy and thoughtfulness of treatment by the employers would have gone a long way in the lives of those who lived in servitude.

Thoughtlessness on Part of Some Employers

There is a thoughtless group of people who ignore servants as though they might be articles of furniture instead of live things, who can feel and see and suffer mental, as well as physical, pain. This is a social class who suffer thoughtlessly inflicted pain and humiliation, with the general attitude of those who inflict it being that their feelings don’t count —if they have any. 

“I am writing of the servant class, the Bridgets and the Mary Anns. You notice I write the Ann without a final “e" the little finish which sets a gulf between the socially important and their less fortunate sisters. The particular Bridget who wrote what follows is an educated foreign woman whose education is plainly evident in her handwriting and her thinking. How would you like to be such a woman and earn your living working for some of the people whom she describes? 
‘For my class it’s take it on the chin, grin or beat it and no job. To be sure I’m British. I served in one home eight years which seems to prove that I was treated humanely. I remember the lovely room I had and often compared it with the Bridget’s quarters given me, to a long succession of dumps I’ve occupied here. I thought of it recently as I retired in my servant’s room better described as a pig sty.’ 
Walls of Room Dirty...
‘It was small, dark and had dirty walls which could be cleaned up for the cost of about $4. But when approached on the subject my mistress said ‘no.’ She considered herself a socialite but some of her neighbors called her ‘alley cat.’ And I guess she earned that. 
One former employer still owes me for two years back wages. I took it to the small claims court but find all you get there is a judgment. The court makes no effort to enforce its findings. So it’s up to me to do my own collecting. 
At another place of squatting I found the parents two drunks. The trimmings were all attached, and there was street fighting with the officers at 3 a. m. ‘Papa’ met me in the hall as he was coming in and he was wearing his real birthday suit so I packed and moved. Many maids I know have wonderful references but stay in a place only a little while.’ 
Considers Folks Funny...
‘Do you blame them? I am middle-aged and homeless but an experienced needle-woman—and so, although I hate it—l’m on relief.  And my former employers are among those who complain against the luxury I am supposed to enjoy. I should, have been content with a Bridget’s lot.  Ain’t’ folks funny?’

 Funny? No. It’s more like “thoughtless and careless.” – From an article by Estelle Lawton Lindsey, 1936

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

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