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Lady's Maid

Lady's Maid

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The wit and galloping good stories of her early novels took a more serious turn in the 80s, their themes often centred on family relationships. Private Papers (1986) is an uncomfortable examination of a mother/daughter struggle and the dark side of family history; Mother, Can You Hear Me? (1979) is even more painful, a story of duty, sacrifice and filial guilt. To become a lady’s maid was not an easy task. The job of a lady’s maid was rare because such jobs were available only among the nobility or the elite, serving such woman as the Duchess of Devonshire, Madame Récamier, or the Princesse de Lamballe. There were plenty of jobs for household servants but few for a lady’s maid. Moreover, the knowledge involved in training a ladý’s maid was enormous. What they had to learned could not be acquired overnight. To become a lady’s maid, potential candidates trained for the position by first functioning as an assistant to a lady’s maid. Training often began when candidates were fresh from home or school and began after they entered a mistress’s home for the first time. However, to be considered for training, a candidate also had to possess certain traits and characteristics with one being that she was “a superior sort of girl.”[2] A description of such a girl was provided by one lady: The Lady’s Maid is still one of the most important roles in the household and one that traditionally tended to that of personal requirements, styling and fashion lifestyle. The daily priority of the Lady’s Maid must ensure the lady of the house is comfortable and her wardrobe and personal needs are met, whatever the occasion. In keeping with tradition, the Lady’s Maid must be on-duty from the moment her employer wakes, until the time she goes to bed, she is entrusted to see to all her Lady’s personal grooming and beauty-care or cosmetic habits.

I can highly recommend Polo and Tweed and am very grateful for all of their help. Lucy was fabulous and always made time to speak to me and answer any questions I had. Thanks Polo and Tweed. If she had one constant preoccupation, it was the role of women in society, and in one of her most moving books, Hidden Lives (1995), she took herself and her family as prime examples of social mobility in Britain in the 20th century. Her grandmother was in service and led a life of pitiful drudgery. Her mother was bright, got a place in a high school and a job as a clerk – a job she had to give up as soon as she married. Third generation Margaret went to Somerville College, Oxford, where she read history.

A lady’s maid is often referred to in fiction as an ‘abigail,’ which was indeed a term used during the Regency period. The term abigail is in reference to II Samuel, versus 24-28 when Abigail refers to herself as David’s handmaid on four occasions. It is unclear why one lady might prefer to use one term over another, though ‘abigail’ in research is referred to as slang. Although lady’s maids were responsible for many of the physical aspects of her mistress, she was first and foremost required to keep her mistress’s secrets. This was because a lady’s maid usually had a close relationship with her mistress and was involved with the family at an intimate level. This also meant there were things the lady’s maid needed to keep private. In fact, gossiping servants were said to belong to the bottom rung of society, and nothing destroyed a servant’s reputation more thoroughly or swiftly than gossip. It was for this reason that a lady’s maid was advised: A little off-topic, but the lives of ladies’ maids is so intriguing! Have any of you read “Longbourn” by Jo Baker? It shows P&P from the POV of one maid-of-all-work who doubles as a ladies’ maid to the five Bennet sisters at Longbourn while Mrs. Hill “triples” as ladies’ maid to Mrs. Bennet, housekeeper, and cook!! Yikes…talk about being worked to the bone! This novel shows the nitty-gritty of being a servant in this time period with such realism. It’s an amazing novel. 🙂 Most of us would enjoy having a lady’s maid to press our clothes and fix our hair, but would you want to be an abigail? As for myself, I probably could not keep up!

Most Regency authors have, at the very least, referenced or mentioned a lady’s maid in a story, even if we haven’t made her a confidant or important servant in our heroine’s life. She is often a useful character, who can be used to impart information about the household gossip, mend gowns in a trice, and coif our heroines, so they stun our heroes with their beauty. But would a lady’s maid be as influential as we authors sometimes make her in a story and was her position a respected one within the household? Was the life of a lady’s maid a good one? These trusted servants often acquired their mistress’ discarded clothing and traveled with their employer; however, the answer to that question likely depended upon the personality of the abigail’s employer. A mistress with the disposition of Caroline Bingley might be a nightmare, though a reasonable mistress might render the position a good one. In some ways, it does sound a lonely life as I can’t imagine much of the household staff befriending the servant who was the eyes and ears of the mistress below stairs! Another important task was hair brushing. To accomplish it, brushes and combs had to be regularly cleaned and a lady’s maid needed to properly brush her mistress’s hair. It was suggested long hair be brushed with “long and even strokes,”[7] but this was also a time when the lady’s maid and her mistress were alone and the conversation that passed between the two was vital because “a girl’s conduct at those times is a test of her whole mind and heart.”[8] Her reputation as a writer had grown rapidly. She wrote intensely and her output was prodigious, but it was with Georgy Girl in 1965 that her reputation was secured. The story of a lumpy and lachrymose girl in search of love had immense popular appeal and was made into a successful film the following year with Lynn Redgrave in the title role. and was determined to prove herself in the world of Genetics. Leah meanwhile excelled in her passion,Thanks for these insights into the life of a ladies’ maid! We definitely get a peek at that life through Downtown Abbey although it’s set more than a century after Austen. We see how one can abuse the position as Miss O’Brien did with the Countess, and we can also see how helpful the relationship can be between Mary and Anna Bates…who isn’t called by her last name since her husband, the Earl’s valet, is known by “Bates” as well. So “Anna” the housemaid isn’t promoted to using her last name when she becomes a ladies’ maid. 😉 But we also see the lengths a good family will go to care for their ladies’ maids and valets when first Bates, then Anna, are accused of murder. When training a lady’s maid there was another important duty that they needed to learn related to medical tasks. For instance, when doctors appeared, the lady’s maid was often in attendance and sometimes she was instructed to change bandages, wash out dressings, or apply leeches. These intimate tasks of course were to be accomplished discretely and never spoken of “at all.” Providing expert advice on high-end fashion, current trends, seasonal changes, and appropriate attire for various events. Marianne Skerrett (1793–1887), the principal lady's maid (with the title "Dresser") to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom between 1837 and 1862. [3] All upcoming public events are going ahead as planned and you can find more information on our blog

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