I know rich people probably still have maids – but are they even called that now? In the 1930’s many households, even quite ordinary ones would have a maid who would come in and help in the kitchen and possibly with some of the cleaning. In Agatha Christie’s novels the maid. housemaid,. kitchen maid are regular characters – although I seem to remember that M. Poirot had a butler. When my grandma was alone at home with four young children (grandpa was working away) a young girl from the village (probably aged about twelve or thirteen) came to help, and she was always called Ethel – not ‘the maid’.
In the 1936 recipe book, Modern Practical Cookery, there is a section near the back about how to train a maid. It seems slightly at odds with the rest of the book, where it is apparent that ‘the housewife’ is in the kitchen doing the cooking, and there are helpful hints on such things as laying the table. I wonder if this section is left over from an earlier edition, maybe from before the 1st World War? This section comes after instructions on weddings, and marriage etiquette, which includes The Bride’s Kitchen and The Workshop (which have to be prepared in the new home before the happy couple take up residence) and Marking the Linen (because, of course, it is sent to a laundry!)
Just in case you have a maid who needs training, here is a little extract:
Early morning duties
In the morning, one of the maid’s duties is to knock at the bed-room door and then walk in with the tea, which is arranged on a tray with a biscuit and a piece of bread and butter..
She pulls up the blinds and inquires if her mistress would like a bath, and if so, fills it and puts a bath mat on the floor. She knocks at the door when the bath is quite ready.
When the maid has chance to give to her mistress, or when letters, parcels and newspapers arrive, they must be brought in on a silver salver, which is kept in the hall for that purpose.
The insufferable elitism of it – the maid (another name for a young girl, as if the woman doing the job is little more than a and biddable naive child) and the mistress – as if the woman who owns the house owns the people who work for her!