Ladies Maids and Valets


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Matthew O'Brien

Guest
What was the attitude towards Ladies Maids and Valets aboard ship? Because their tickets were paid for, what restrictions applied to them on board? I imagine that these passenger would never dare frequenting the first class passengers public rooms, not if they wanted to keep their positions. How do you think this class of passenger was treated by the crew? Were they waited upon the way that the other first class passengers were? Did their tickets entitle them to this treatment? I understand their positions were quite respectable on land, so imagine it was the same on board a liner.

Thanks,

Matt
 
Jul 10, 2009
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No, the one restriction that I know of was that the long room on the inner starboard side, right aft of the Aft Grand Stairs, was their dining room.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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I think much of their treatment depended on how their employers treated them. The maids etc were allowed time to themselves. Many were good friends of their employers, and were crossing merely to help here and there, but otherwise were free to roam the ship as any other. They were certainly not free passengers and did have their commitment to those for who they worked and had as much freedom as their employers would allow. I'm not sure, but perhaps they wore a uniform to distinguish themselves from the average passenger, but also not look like a member of the crew.

Daniel.
 
Apr 22, 2012
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I read somewhere that the dining room set aside for servants, which Michael mentioned above, was how they were distinguished. The book I read this from contained a passage something like, "A young lady would not want to approach a handsome gentleman at dinner, only to find out that he was really the valet of Colonel Astor." Has anyone else ever read this passage? This gave me the impression that perhaps they were considered to be lower members of society.


Cheers,
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-B.W.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Brandon, they were after all servants, so they certainly wouldn't be up there in the ranks with fellow first class servants.

I do remember the passage, but have no idea where I read it from. My memory however, tells me that it was Henry Sleeper Harper's manservant that was referred to.

Daniel.
 
Apr 22, 2012
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Yes, it was somebody else's servant rather than Colonel Astor's. I could not remember the exact name, so I just used his.


Cheers,
happy.gif


-B.W.
 
Jun 4, 2003
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Hello all! Was it proper back then for one lady to travel without a maid? I assume a few actually did! I think it was not that bad and that stewardesses would help them a bit more! By the way, what was exactly the role of a stewardess in first class? Did it include personal service as well (dressing one up, fixing up the room etc.)? Thank you!!!
 
May 12, 2005
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"...Was it proper back then for one lady to travel without a maid?..."

It was not improper.

"...Did it include personal service as well (dressing one up, fixing up the room etc.)? ..."

It did.
 
May 12, 2005
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The social position of servants has been brought up in earlier posts to this thread.

In the social structure of that period the position of a lady's maid or manservant was considered a bit low. I would imagine that would apply as well to a chauffeur, gardener and a cook.

But in the case of a governess or a secretary, there was a different feeling. These were considered acceptable positions of service to be "admitted" to society gatherings - perhaps not the choicest, but to intimate gatherings at least. In Europe a governess would have been considered part of her employer's family and a secretary would have known about his or her employer's business and financial situation so they were also thought to be on a par.

It was not always the case but governesses and lady secretaries often came from "respectable" families themselves.

I don't know what the attitude was toward the governesses on Titanic (I can't recall how many there were) but the one woman secretary aboard, Laura Mabel Francatelli, Lucy Duff Gordon's business secretary, was not excluded from social interaction and in fact accompanied her employer wherever she went. "Franks," as she was called, was as much of a companion and friend as she was a secretary, a sort of "lady in waiting."

Throughout her years working for Lucy, Franks was often pressed into service as a veritable emissary, even presenting talks and holding conferences in her employer's behalf. She was relied on not only as a very capable business woman but as a dear friend.

Franks had worked for Lucy for only two years before sailing with her on Titanic. She remained in Lucy's employ until around 1920, having by that time become her social secretary, the job of business secretary falling to another of the staff, Ruby Sutton.
 
R

robert s hauser

Guest
To answer Brandon's original question, I think you are referring to the epilogue of "A Night to Remember" when Walter Lord was explaining the function of the special dinning saloon for valets and servants. The quotation, which I found to be humorous, went something like "After all, such accommodation might spare an upper class lady the embarrassment of finding out that the tall, dark, handsome stranger she had been talking to all night was actually Henry Sleeper Harper's Egyptian Dragomon". Pretty funny. Rob H.
 
J

João Carlos Pereira Martins

Guest
I was just wondering what a personal maid did when her employer was socializing in the public rooms, essentially during the morning and the afternoon. Well, I'm not imagining the Countess of Rothes having tea in the Reception Room with Lady Duff-Gordon with the companion of Miss Maioni... I suppose the valets or private butlers would stay with their lords in the Smoking Room or in the Palm Court. Can anybody clarify my doubts?

Regards, João
 

Brian Ahern

Member
Dec 19, 2002
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Good question, João.

I doubt the valets were hanging out with their employers in the public rooms, but you never know. I believe Victor Giglio, Ben Guggenheim's valet, was listed on the passenger list in his own right. This makes me think he was a full-fledged passenger - as opposed to holding a half-fare servant's ticket entitling him only to servant's facilities - so perhaps Mr. Guggenheim was in the habit of keeping him fairly close at hand.

Maids and valets had their own dining room. Somebody else can say if they had their own lounge.

You mentioned Roberta Maioni. In her account of the sinking, written long after she'd moved up the social ladder and become a doctor's wife, she discussed her activities during the sinking. I only remember her discussing attending the concert the night of the sinking. In no part of the account did she mention that she was on board as somebody's maid
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Other than that - I know the Spedden's nurse, Margaretta Burns, accompanied Daisy Spedden to the Turkish bath, but a nurse was different than a maid and was allowed to be seen more.

Their employers must have had need of them; otherwise they probably would have been traveling second class. The Allisons, for example, had their cook and chauffeur in second class while their more personal attendants were, of course, with them in first.
 
J

João Carlos Pereira Martins

Guest
Yeah, Brian! Personally I think that maids and valets were on some way good friends of their employers and for example, a gentleman would like to have his valet close for when he needed cigars or whisky and I can imagine they would roam the public rooms but far away from the "real" first class, to join them after the dinner or the afternoon snacks. I haven't any resource for what I'll say, but to give another example, I suppose that Miss Cleaver stayed at the restaurant's entrance when Lorraine joined her parents at the dinner party, even for a short time.

As I'm as concerned the maids, many of them would have always plenty of things to do during the day, we can't forget that it was usual a first class lady changing clothes six times a day, so they would have to tidy everything, the dresses, the gowns, the shoes, the corsetts, the jewels and have the stateroom clear and fresh. Just out of curiosity, did Miss Maioni help Gladys Cherry clothing for dinner? And did the personal maids have access to the lady's jewels? ( A film that I really recommend to understand the relationship between sevants and employers is "Gosford Park". I've it and I watched it several times)

Very pleased, João
 
May 12, 2005
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As Brian points out, valets and nurses were seen as more distinguished than ladies’ maids, and often accompanied their employers socially. They would not have socialized, of course, but simply been present. The same did not apply to more professional servants, such as secretaries, who appear to have been on a fairly equal footing socially or at least were allowed to interact in social situations.

Only one of these was on Titanic — Mabel "Franks" Francatelli, Lucy Duff Gordon’s secretary. Franks was actually more than a secretary, functioning in the capacity of a modern personal assistant, and a close friendship resulted between the women. Franks was in fact sometimes referred in press stories (and immigration forms) as Lucy’s "companion" or "friend." She even made personal appearances in Lucy’s behalf and was a pretty fierce buffer between Lucy and the media. One reporter (in 1916) mentioned "her Ladyship’s protective English secretary" who was "in constant attendance" and who "customarily meets prying cameras with her umbrella tip."

As to Roberta "Cissy" Maioni, she was supposedly sick during most of the voyage, although her condition didn’t prevent her having a fling with an unidentified crewman en route. Her illness and/or extracurricular activities kept her away from her mistress most of the voyage. The countess and Gladys Cherry were therefore waited on by their cabin steward and/or stewardess.
 
J

João Carlos Pereira Martins

Guest
My grandmother was a personal maid to a lady from a rich family between 1944 and 1949 and while talking with her (she tells me amazing stories, like celebrating the end of World War II with the UK's flag in her balcony!), she told me that she was where her lady was, at every time of the day. She went shopping, to the church, to friend's houses, and when they stayed in a hotel she slept in the same room as her lady. I know the maids were very honourable in same cases and usually accompanied their employers but my grandma was so young at that time... she even said she was authorized to stay with the lady friends when they were chatting but she couldn't say a word, just serve the tea and satisfy the lady's desires. Is that possible, provided she was only 17 at that time, and be so close to the lady? I didn't even know that that were Portuguese families with enough money to have personal maids... LOL.

João
 
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João Carlos Pereira Martins

Guest
I know that some servants were very close to the employers families, some were considered friends or even family members but could a governess or a personal secretary (male including, not only referring Miss Franks) take a walk in the Promenade Deck and circulate in the ship like a passenger, with no restrictions? I'm meaning a very, very close servant to the family.

Sorry for my excessive number of questions.

Very pleased,
João
 

Brian Ahern

Member
Dec 19, 2002
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A governess or personal secretary? Absolutely. As Randy implied, being a governess or personal secretary (especially "social secretary") was one of the few lines of work open to well-born women.

Eleanor Roosevelt's was Lucy Paige Mercer, descended from several of the oldest Catholic families in America (notably the Carrolls, who Brooke Astor - JJ's daughter-in-law - was proud to count among her ancestors). The Mercers were high society but poor - so-called "boarding house aristocracy", and so Lucy had to work. Unfortunately, she started up an affair with her employer's husband. Eventually she became governess to the children of a rich widower named Rutherford who she ended up marrying.

And across the Atlantic, Clementine Churchill hired her own cousin (they were both granddaughters to the Earl of Something) to run her children's nursery. The cousin's name was Marryot Whyte. She was blue-blooded but poor and it seemed it was judged by everyone that caring for her cousin's children was a way to earn her bread without apparently sacrificing too much dignity. She stayed on after the children were grown to act as a secretary and help run the household.

Remember that the Ryerson's governess, Grace Scott Bowen, and the Graham's, Elizabeth W. Shutes, were both listed in their own right on the passenger list. They certainly would not have been relegated to the maids and valet's dining room. It was sort of par for the course - if you were a lady with more breeding than money, you'd take a post with a respectable family on the understanding that you'd watch your step and do your job, while they in turn would respect your position as an educated lady (note the emphasis on the "lady").

And the governess of the Compton family on the Lusitania was Dorothy Allen, a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke, a very elite university. A Mt Holyoke girl would not have expected to be treated like a maid.

In terms of men, Vivian Payne, Charles Hays's secretary, was an accountant's son whose father had died young and in whom Mr. Hays had taken a fatherly interest. My guess would be that he was treated quite en famille.

Regarding Ismay's secretary, Harrison, he doesn't seem to have been by his employer much, but again, I suspect it would have been considered too great an indignity to have a secretary eat with the servants.

I'm sure that often, with secretaries, paid companions, etc, even if they didn't dine with the family, they still would have dined in the saloon, at another table. Perhaps if you were dining with a friend, you didn't expect to have to make small talk with their secretary. I think this would be up to what your friend deemed appropriate.

I'm a little unclear about male secretaries at the time. I'm not sure if was considered a good stepping stone to bigger and better things or not. It sounds like it was for Vivian Payne, at least.

One thing that's been discussed elsewhere is Miss Francatelli's status, as far as the White Star Line was concerned. She's listed as "and Maid" and thus must have been a half-fare passenger. But we know that she did dine with Lady DG and was treated as a full-fledged passenger. My guess is that her ladyship was flouting the rules in a way that a lesser passenger would not have attempted or got away with. It seems a bit strange, though, that Lady DG would do this, because my impression is that she wasn't someone overly attached to money. But I also have the impression that she wasn't too concerned with details in these matters and it might have been this, rather than chintziness, that led to her breaking the rules.
 

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