II-88120.0 | Serving tea, copied 1888

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Serving tea, copied 1888
Anonyme - Anonymous
1888, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Bourgeois ideals in the late 19th century dictated that families should hire at least one multi-functional maid in order to separate themselves from the working class and become part of, at least, the lower middle class.

The tasks given to servants varied depending on whether there was just one or several servants in the household. A servant working alone was often responsible for the cleaning, cooking, errands, kitchen, garden and children. Her workday could be 15 hours; some days the domestic worked for up to 18 hours, as the upper classes began their fashionable late dinners at around seven or eight o'clock at night.

Compared with other workers, servants were sometimes considered fortunate. Their food and board were assured, which meant they had the option of saving a little from their wages.

  • What

    Contracts between servants and masters from the early 1870s indicate that young women would earn approximately $76 annually, a sum that added greatly to a poor family's budget.

  • Where

    Sometimes girls were placed in service because their own families could not support them. As domestics they were sometimes better sheltered, fed and clothed than they would be living at home.

  • When

    The typical Montreal female servant in the late 19th century was single, in her early twenties and from either rural Quebec or Europe.

  • Who

    Domestic service was the most common paid employment for women in Canada before 1900.