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Domestic Servants' Union

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Domestic Servants' Union

Post by Karen on Fri 13 Aug 2010 - 0:38

Found below is a snippet found in the Liverpool Echo of November 20, 1886. It introduces the creation of a Domestic Servants' Union for housemaids and cooks wanting more privileges. Look at the name at the end of the article:

The newest of unions is the Domestic Servants' Union. The establishment of this organisation is not calculated to afford satisfaction to mistresses who, as it is, are almost worried to death by their difficulties with domestics. Of course, the faults are not always on the side of the servants, but many think that the tendency lately has been to make things unpleasant for ladies who are not prepared to allow their cooks and housemaids an unlimited number of privileges. Though the formation of a Servant's Union may put money into the pockets of some needy adventurers, it will hardly help to promote better relations between Mary Jane and her employer.

Source: The Liverpool Echo, Saturday November 20, 1886

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The Plight Of The Servants

Post by Karen on Fri 13 Aug 2010 - 1:24

Here is another reference to "domestic servants" from the Liverpool Echo which jokingly refers to a Mary Ann wanting an hour off a weeknight for her singing lessons:

The "domestic servant" formed the topic of a debate in the Liverpool Diocesan Conference yesterday. Needless to say, not much light was thrown upon the matter. Still it is well that the interests of this important and numerous class should be well kept to the front. If it be true that the mothers of the rising generation are responsible for its character, then, for the sake of the British workman of the future, the domestic servants should receive a large share of the moral and civilising influences of the day. Canon Livingstone rightly remarked that "the Church in doing its duty to the servants was doing its duty to the future homes of the best part of the working class of England." How large a proportion of the population domestic servants form is seldom realised. According to the Rev. F. Millard, out of every twenty-two persons one is an indoor servant, though the proportion varies under different conditions, being highest in the towns and lowest in the mining and manufacturing districts. In London one in every fifteen, in Lancashire one in every five gains a living by domestic service, there were in 1881 no fewer than 1,230,000 female servants, and of these we had in Lancashire 114,000 women servants. What is done for these? Next to nothing. Not for them improvement classes and the like. The joke of the period is that Mary Ann wants an hour on a weeknight for her singing lesson. Why not?

The fact is , as Mr. Millard remarked, domestic service is under a stigma. The mister and mistress regard the servant as a drudge. The shopgirl, even the factory-girl, looks down upon her. The parson, who visits my lady in the drawing-room, regards the domestics as animated machines. If she receives any attention at all, it is by the bestowal of the dreariest of tracts, and if she goes to church it is on the Sunday afternoon with the children, when a juvenile curate is put up to preach at her. As was shown again, the domestic servant is surrounded by all sorts of moral dangers, and in her situation is often the "stranger within the gates," who, instead of receiving the kindly treatment due to the "stranger," is only too frequently the butt for the family's peevishness and vulgarity, and not infrequently is insulted by those who should be her protectors. Nor, indeed, does there seem at hand any practical remedy for the amelioration of the domestic servant's condition. In kindly families she is treated kindly, and vice versa. On the other hand, mistresses complain that their kindness is thrown away or taken advantage of, whilst rarely the kindly employer and conscientious servant meet, and then a very comfortable household is the result.

We fear the truth must be owned that places are largely what servants make them, and that reform must begin with themselves. Is it not they who are ashamed of their position? whereas, whatever other work in the world is of questionable value, that of order and cleanliness is indisputably excellent and essential. But the servant will have her "liberty," and it is not "liberty" if she may not spend it as she likes. Mr. Clarke Aspinall said he would suggest ("with the approval of the Bishop!") that there might be in the churches more services of a Sunday. There is doubtless much that the clergy might do and do not do. But surely the difficulty consists chiefly in this - that complaint is made of servants as they are in service, whereas attention should rather be directed to the conditions and surroundings of their bringing up. Upon this point we quote an authority greater than any that engaged in yesterday's debate. Mr. J.C. Buckmaster writes: - "A rather long experience has convinced me that the qualities necessary to make a home healthy and comfortable are to a large extent hereditary. Slovenly, dirty servants are the descendants of dirty mothers, or grandmothers, or great grandmothers. The defects and shortcomings of humanity are not to be suddenly remedied by teaching cooking, physiology, and hygiene, but by the better example of those who are supposed to have had the benefit of this teaching. The education of girls both in upper schools and lower schools is as bad as it can be, it has no reference or bearing on the practical duties of life. It is all very well for those who sit in rooms larger than cigar-boxes, have gas stoves, copper stewpans, hearth-rugs, and bathrooms to complain of the carelessness, dirt, ignorance, drunkenness, and idleness of the poor; but look at their surroundings - a narrow court or street, with a handsome brick wall to study; an old frying-pan, and a tin saucepan with holes in the bottom temporarily stopped with pieces of rag; one dirty old cloth, which serves occasionally to wash the children; and the few pieces of broken or cracked crockery; a fireplace upon which there is no room to place a saucepan without its tumbling over or filling the room with smoke. This is the kind of place we impically call the poor man's home, in which we expect the rising generation to be trained to habits of virtue and self-control." The wonder is that out of such surroundings so good an article as the domestic servant of today is obtained.

Source: The Liverpool Echo, Thursday November 4, 1886

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Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"
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