YORKSGEN-L ArchivesArchiver > YORKSGEN > 2001-01 > 0980015541
From: Guy Etchells <>
Subject: Re: Just out of interest
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001 18:32:21 +0000
References: <3A692DFE.3459E3B@virgin.net> <00d501c082f1$652310e0$43ca2cc3@tinypc>
That is a popular misconception of the life and times of Victorian servants,
unfortunately I have leant many of my reference books out otherwise I could have
quoted you many instances of laws safeguarding the rights of servants and cases
where the employer was taken to court and fined heavily for abusing his
That is not to say that some servants were not treated badly and were too
intimidated to do anything about it because obviously they were, the same
happens today in many other forms of discrimination and bullying where the
victim is too afraid to take advantage of the laws in place to help them.
By and large most servants felt themselves to be in privileged positions and
were very protective of their place in the hierarchy of the domestic scene.
The problem we face today is that we look at this through 20th or even 21st
century eyes and do not relate to 19th century values.
People in those days took a pride in their work no matter how menial it may seem
today and were proud to call themselves chimney sweeps or footmen or housemaids,
not ashamed. Many of the big houses had waiting lists of prospective staff.
The trouble is in these affluent times we have inflated egos and often feel the
need to exaggerate our positions.
As for the alternatives to going into domestic service there were many
occupations that could be taken up anything from factory work through
self-employment like frame work knitter to school teacher and beyond, all
required little or no training.
Kate Martinson wrote:
> Have to disagree with you one this one, Guy. The term "servant", as it has
> been handed down to us from the Victorian era, has implications of
> ownership, which (one hopes) no longer pertains in our society. Servants,
> who usually lived with the families who employed them, were controlled body
> and soul - they were not allowed to marry or have children because it
> interefered with their ability to work and were even told what to believe
> and when to worship. Wages for "visible" servants such as butlers and
> footmen were higher for the better-looking servants - if you lost a tooth
> you would no longer be considered an asset to the family. Failure to come up
> to the employer's demands would result in instant dismissal without a
> reference - you would therefore lose your home as well as your employment,
> with very little chance of getting another as respectable.
> I have ancestors who were domestic servants and they were indeed glad to get
> these positions but only because the alternatives for the working class were
> so awful - prostitution, begging, crossing sweeping, etc etc etc....
> In these days when we all expect to have a personal life outside of our
> employment as a basic human right, I think it is *insulting* to class
> anybody who is employed as a "servant" - to us and especially to our
> ancestors who would be amazed at the way we live today. Would you class
> those red belted louts on the stock exchange who earn a million bonus as
> Kate Martinson
http://freespace.virgin.net/guy.etchells Transcripts, Parish
Records, Calendar, Scaleable Map of Uk. Link to LDS website,
Abbreviations, Returns of Owners of Lands etc. etc.
http://www.guye.freeserve.co.uk Whitefield Transcripts, Etch/ells
http://gye.future.easyspace.com Worldwide Cemetery Links, Monumental
Inscriptions, War Graves, etc.
Churches & MIs. in the Wakefield Area