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Book:"Life Below Stairs" - unexpected reaction


MamaJunebug

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"Life Below Stairs. True LIves of Edwardian Servants," by Alison Maloney.

 

From the first-person accounts of life 'in-service' in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it doesn't look like servants had enough time or reserve energy to plot the plots they hatch on "Downton Abbey"!

 

It's a very readabe book, and one that's easily picked up again after a while away. But I'm coming away with away with, as I get closer to the end pages, is how un-remarkable this all might have seemed to the folks at the time.

 

Consider: Many of the first-generation servants came from farms where there wasn't enough to eat. So the fact of having leftovers from the upstairs table would probably be seen as a good thing - there was food, and it was almost guaranteed.

 

The long hours would not be that unusual for individuals arriving from farms. I mean, even today, the few remaining farmers among my personal acquaintances are up-at-dawn, bed-fairly-late kinda folks.

 

The restrictions on socializing during the servants' one afternoon (augh!) a week off would've been irritating, but no more than those imposed by imperious parents or other authority figures back home.

 

Note well -- I'm not saying their lives were just fine! They certainly weren't, the conditions were overly harsh and IMO the means didn't justify the ends of the upstairs people looking as if they were living effortlessly, with nary a nod to the help belowstairs.

 

It's just that I'm wondering what the reaction of the folks on the farm were, when they learned of how their young women and men were treated at the manors and houses. Looks as though the vast majority of first-time servants sent much of their pay home, so that the families wouldn't starve.

 

Again, please: no chastisements that I'm hard-hearted and half a dozen other unpleasant things. I'm pretty much nont of those! I'd just love to know he farm folks back home regarded the situations.

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I guess my curiosity is piqued by a story Big Mama Junebug told me.

It was 1939, she had turned 16 and had to quit high school to follow her older sister to the city to work in factories and on switchboards to send money back to her folks.

BJMB showed up at the family's home one morning, and Grandma JB, while very happy to see her, was concerned: had she lost her job?

BMJB said no, this was vacation.

Grandma was from Eastern Europe and had never heard of vacation, so BMJB explained to it.

Grandma replied, "You don't go to work for a week and still they pay you? I like this baykayshum!" :angelic-grayflying:

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I'm going to look into this book. Thanks for the suggestion.

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I'm going to look into it, as well, MamaJuneBug. It sounds fascinating. My husband's maternal grandmother was in service at a duke's household in the Thirties as a young working class woman in England. I'd love to know more of what her life must have been like then, but sadly I don't think she lucid enough now at the age of 96.

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Oh, I look forward to discussing it with you both!

Especially if by any chance your grandmother remembers ... it would be so interesting to hear some of her experiences. If not, it's still good. The more I read about what our ancestors endured, the more I'm in awe of them, proud of them and the better my perspective on what I "go through"!!!

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