The Victorian era in Britain was one of great dependency upon the women employed in domestic service. Domestic service was a very popular line of work for women in this period, in fact “about 40 percent of all women in Victorian Britain were employed…and a majority were domestic servants,” which showcases both the popularity and dependency upon domestic servant jobs. Many of the servants during this period were considered maids of all work, and it was this type of servant who ensured the efficient running and maintenance of many middle class households. This was because “the average middle class household did not usually have a valet, footman, or butler, but a cook, housemaid, and a maid of all work were essential.” Thus, revealing the
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As they proved to be an invaluable reference book a servant could turn to in times of confusion. Writers of the Victorian era, such as Isabella Beeton, not only sought to offer guidance and instruction for the running of a household, but also to point out the importance of efficiency. What is also clear from Beeton’s writing is a feeling of empathy, which is expressed for roles within housekeeping, such as the maid of all work. Beeton highlights within the section of a maid of all work, that jobs such as this were ones deserving of sympathy, as the life of this maid was “a solitary one.” Therefore, the employment of women into the sphere of domestic service under the title ‘maid of all work,’ was evidently a job that not only took over a maid of all work’s life, but also subjected these maids to performing a laborious daily routine, essential to the running of a household, which was also inexplicitly expected to be completed in an unseen and discreet fashion.
Interestingly, the employment of servants in domestic service during the nineteenth century revealed a change in thought amongst the writers from the previous century. As Higgs stated in his article, “the nineteenth century was defined not simply by gender, but by gender defined work.” Hence why there were so many women seeking jobs in domestic service. However, an unknown writer of the previous century reveals in the book Complete Man and