How to Attain a Servant Position in Victorian Times

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Help Wanted: How to Attain a Servant Position By the nineteenth century, staff for a household became a necessity for the middle class families. Most had acquired enough wealth to attain servants for household duties. The number of servants kept on staff, and their conduct and appearance, quickly became a mark of status, especially near the top of the class ladder (Hughes 37 ). The popular belief was at least three servants were essential for the household. The duties and conditions of work varied, from the virtual slavery of a young maid-of-all-work to the specialized skills of the servant in an aristocratic household (“Servants”). One way to attain a position was to attend a hiring fair. This was held in September and May, when new positions were entered into for a twelve month probationary period (Hughes 37 ). Usually, Victorians were searching for a specific person who had the capabilities for a specific duty. Most servants did not share duties, therefore when at the fair they needed to have a distinction from the rest displaying their work skills. The prospect would wear an article of clothing or carried a symbol that identified the position they were seeking to fill. Carters and wagoners twisted a piece of whipcord around their hats, while thatches displayed a fragment of woven straw (Hughes 38). In addition to the hiring fair, people seeking such positions could go to servant registries. These agencies printed advertisements that listed available servants, much like our classified ads in today’s newspapers. However, these agencies were not reliable and charged a sum for the service upfront. Word of mouth was the most commonly used way for a person to find a service job. Most common people of the times were servants in aristocratic households. Those that knew the persons in those households could put out the word that they were in need of a position. The servants could in turn communicate with other servants from different households that someone is looking for a position. In many cases this worked better than going through an agency. At least the prospective employee had a person they knew looking for the job; not a person just looking to make some money. Once hired, there was usually a contract that stated the specific duties and terms of the employment. For example, if a woman attained a maid she was usually expected to give the servant her cast off clothes, which was outlined in their agreement.
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