From 'The Dictionary of Daily Wants' - 1858-1859
Please note that the original version is not divided into paragraphs, which would
have made it difficult to read online.
MAID OF ALL WORK. - A domestic servant, who undertakes the whole duties of
a household without assistance; her duties comprising those of cook, housemaid,
nurserymaid, and various other offices, acccording to the exigencies of the establishment.
The situation is one which is usually regarded as the hardest worked and worst paid
of any branch of domestic servitude; it is, therefore, usually filled by inexperienced
servants, or females who are so circumstanced that they are only desirous of securing a
home, and of earning sufficient to keep themselves decently clad. In many of these
situations, a servant may be very comfortably circumstanced, especially if it be a limited
family of regular habits, and where there is a disposition to treat the servant with
kindness and consideration.
The duties of a maid of all work being multifarious, it is
necessary that she should arise early in the morning; and six or half-past six o'clock
is the latest period at which she should remain in bed. She should first light the
kitchen fire, and set the kettle over to boil; then she should sweep, dust, and prepare
the room in which breakfast is to be taken. Having served the breakfast, she should,
while the family are engaged upon that meal, proceed to the various bedchambers, strip
the beds, open the windows, &c. This done, she will obtain her own breakfast, and
after washing and putting away the things, she will again go upstairs, and finish what
remains to be done there.
As the family will in all probability dine early, she must now
set about the preliminaries for the dinner, making up the fire, preparing the vegetables,
&c. After the dinner is cleared away, and the things washed and put by in their places,
she must clean the kitchen; and this done, she is at liberty to attend to her own
personal appearance, to wash and dress herself, &c. By this time the preparation for tea
will have to be thought of, and this being duly served and cleared away, she must employ
herself in needlework in connection with the household, or should there happen to be none
requiring to be done, she may embrace this opportunity to attend to her own personal
necessities. Supper has then to be attended to; and this finished, the maid of all work
should take the chamber candlesticks, hot water, &c., into the sitting-room, and retire
to rest as soon as her mistress or the regulation of the establishment will permit her.
The duties here set down can only be regarded as an outline rather than a detail, the
habits of every family varying, and thereby regulating the amount of labour demanded, and
the order in which the duties are to be performed. As a rule, however, a maid of all
work, if she wish to retain her situation, must be industrious, cleanly, and thoughtful;
and not only able to work, but to plan.