The Duties of the Maid-Servants in the Wealthy Homes

  Article Tools

Print This Page

E-mail This Page To A Friend

Whether there is only one maid-servant in the house, or many, their duties should be clearly defined and understood. It is the only way to avoid quarreling and misunderstanding among the servants themselves.

Let each one understand from the very first day he begins work just what his duties are. In this case as in many another an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If there are quarrels among the servants the mistress should not interfere nor take sides. If possible she should remove the cause of the friction, and for a serious fault she should discharge the one that is causing the disturbance.

The services of the waitress are confined to the drawing-room floor. She serves breakfast, luncheon and dinner, and afternoon tea where it is the custom. This is assuming, however, that there is no butler in the home. In this case she attends to all the other duties that would ordinarily fall upon him. She answers the doorbell, polishes the silver, helps with
the washing of the dishes and sees that the table is correctly laid for each meal.

The parlor maid is a luxury enjoyed only by families of great wealth. She is expected to devote her time and attention wholly to the drawing-room and dining-room, assisting the waitress in the pantry and keeping the library and drawing-room in order. But in the average comfortable home of America there are usually only two maids, a housemaid and a waitress (with perhaps the additional services of a cook) and these two maids have the care of the dining, living and bedrooms divided
between them.

The dress of the house-maids is very much alike. The waitress, or parlor maid, wears a plain, light-colored dress in the morning with a rather large apron, and a small white cap. The chambermaid's costume is very much the same. In the afternoon the parlor maid or waitress changes to a black serge dress in winter, or a black poplin in summer, with white linen cuffs and collars and a small white apron. [The costumes for maid-servants change frequently, only in slight details, but enough to warrant specific research at the time the servant is outfitted. A large department store, or a. store devoted exclusively to the liveries of servants, will be able to tell you exactly the correct costumes for maid-servants at the present time. Or you may find the desired information in a current housekeeping magazine.]

The maid-servants never wear jewelry or other finery while they are on duty. One very simple brooch, or perhaps a pair of cuff links, is permissible; but bracelets, rings and neck ornaments are in bad taste. Elaborate dressing of the hair should also be avoided, and careless, untidy dressing should never be countenanced.


The lady's maid does not take part in the general housework. Her duties are solely to care for the wardrobe of her mistress, to assist her at her toilette, to draw her bath, to lay out her clothes and keep her room tidy. But she does not sweep or dust the room or make the bed--these are the duties of the chamber-maid. If she is an accomplished maid she will probably do a great deal of sewing, and perhaps she will massage her mistress' hair and manicure her nails. But these duties are not to be expected; the mistress who finds her maid is willing to do these things for her, is indeed fortunate.

A black dress in winter, and a black skirt and waist in summer, worn with a small, dainty white apron comprises the costume of the lady's maid. Stiff white cuffs and collar add a touch of prim neatness which is most desirable. At the present tune, the tiny white cap formerly worn by lady's maids has been almost entirely dispensed with.

When traveling with her mistress, the lady's maid should wear only very simple and inconspicuous clothes. A tweed suit worn with a neat blouse, or a tweed coat worn over a simple dress, is the best form. Anything gaudy or elaborate worn by a lady's maid is frowned upon by polite society.


The nurse-maid should be very particular about her dress. She should always be faultlessly attired, her hair neat and well-brushed, her entire appearance displaying a tidy cleanliness.

In the house the nurse-maid wears a simple dress of wool or heavy material with a white apron and white collar and cuffs. In warmer weather she wears linen or poplin with the apron and collar and cuffs. Outdoors, she wears a long full cloak over her house dress.


The cook, who is always dressed spotlessly in white, does nothing outside the kitchen unless special arrangements have been made to the contrary. She keeps the kitchen tidy and clean, cooks the meals, helps with the dishes and perhaps attends to the furnace.

The waitress opens and airs the living-rooms, dusts the rooms and gets everything in readiness for breakfast. It is customary to excuse her as soon as the principal part of the breakfast has been served, so that she may attend to her chamber-work and be ready to come down to her breakfast by the time the family has finished. However, before she goes to her own breakfast, she is expected to clear the dining-room table and take the dishes into the kitchen.

If the waitress does not help with the chamber-work, this duty falls entirely upon the chamber-maid. She must make the beds, sweep and dust the bedrooms, and keep them immaculate. The mistress should inspect the chamber-work occasionally for servants must not be permitted to feel that carelessness in details will be overlooked And the mistress should also take care of her own linen closet, unless she has a very trustworthy and competent servant; for linens should be worn alike, and not some worn constantly and others allowed to lie forgotten in corner of the closet.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Duties of the Maid-Servants in the Wealthy Homes
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My collection of books: Book of Etiquette by Lillian Eichler Volumes: I and II; Nelson Doubleday, Inc. Oyster Bay, N.Y. 1921
Time & Date Stamp: