Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Domestic Problem

"A word about the maid's bedroom. In some circumstances it is impossible to make it very alluring. When all of a family are tucked away in dark, inside rooms, as is the case in many city apartments, it cannot be expected that the maid will fare better than her employers. But, fortunately, all humanity are not cliff-dwellers. There are plenty of homes where it is possible for the maid to have a light, airy bedroom, which could be made attractive at a small expenditure of time and money. Yet it is seldom that a servant's room has anything pleasing about it. The mistresses defend themselves by saying that the servants are heedless with good things, that they do not take care of what is given them, and any mistress can cite facts to prove this position.

Without disputing the truth of these statements, it may yet be urged that it is hard for a servant to come into a room that bears plainly the traces of its former occupant's untidiness. Possibly the new-comer has in her the potentialities of neatness and cleanliness, and it is unfair to check these at the start. The room cannot be refurnished for every new maid; but the furniture it contains can be of a sort that is readily freshened. The white iron cots are neat as well as comfortable, and there should be a good mattress always. A hard-working maid has a right to a comfortable bed. If there are two servants, they should have separate beds. This should be an invariable rule. The mattress should be protected by one of the covers that come for this purpose. This can be washed as often as it needs it. The blankets, too, should be washed between the departure of one maid and the arrival of another. A neat iron wash-stand, a plain bureau that can have a fresh bureau-cover or a clean towel laid over it, a comfortable chair, a rug by the bed, are not expensive and add much to the comfort of a room. It is wiser to have the floor bare and painted, or spread with a matting, than covered with a shabby and worn-out carpet which gathers dust and dirt. The walls are better painted than papered. The mistress can consult her own preferences as to whether or not she shall put pictures on the walls, but she should not make of the maid's room a lumber place for the old engravings and chromos that will be tolerated in no other part of the house, and do it under the impression that she is making the place attractive to the maid-servant within her gates. The bed should, if possible, be made up before the maid arrives, with a fresh spread, and the room should have the absolute cleanliness that is always a charm.

One more point should be looked after in preparing for the maid's arrival. The mistress should make sure that the supply of china and cutlery that the maid will use for her own meals is in decent order. It cannot be pleasant for any one to have bent and tarnished forks and spoons, cracked and stained cups, saucers, and plates for her food. The cost of replacing these by new is very slight and pays for itself in the agreeable impression given the maid by the fresh, bright articles."

The Expert Maidservant, 1904, by Christine Terhune Herrick.


GDad said...


Susan Smith said...

Wow is right! Neat image.

Shay said...

That middle-class women of even moderate income had "help" is, I think, an indication of just how labor intensive housekeeping was until after WWI.

Wait till you get a load of what that poor maid's duties consisted of.