Maids in History

Maids in 1908
The maid has held many duties throughout history and, though at the bottom of the social ladder, they were very important to the efficient running of a household. While their wages were considerably low, they usually included room and board. Many households o­nly had o­ne maid who performed the various duties of cleaning, cooking, child care and general house maintenance. Larger households were able to employee more maids. There were different types of maids, each with a different social status, and each reporting to a different person.

The lady’s maid was the senior maid of the household and reported o­nly to the lady of the house. She maintained a higher social status than other maids and was paid higher wages. She was responsible for the lady’s clothing and was considered her seamstress and hair stylist.

The cook had a kitchen maid and a scullery maid to help in the kitchen. The kitchen maid reported directly to the cook and had the opportunity to become an assistant to the cook if experience permitted. The scullery maid reported to the kitchen maid and was responsible for cleaning the kitchen floors, pots and pans, stoves and sinks. She was usually the lowest ranking maid in the household.

Additional maids included the parlor maid, who maintained the parlor; the chambermaid, who performed the household chores of washing, grocery shopping, caring for pets, and general cleaning of the house; and the nursery maid, whose job was to clean the nursery and report to the children’s nurse or nanny.

Ironing Maid
Famous maids in history include Lillian Rogers Parks and her mother, Margaret ‘Maggie’ Rogers, both maids in the White House. Lillian published My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House and discusses their lives as maids. Notoriously, there were two French maids, sisters Christine and Lea Papin, who murdered the wife and daughter of their employer. Their story inspired the production of many plays and movies.