Ladies Maids and Valets

Matthew O'Brien

Former Member
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.


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.

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.


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.

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!!!
"...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.
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.

robert s hauser

Former Member
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.
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
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

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.