Familiar Talks with Cottagers and Flat-Dwellers – Our Maid’s Outings

This is the second article in January of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Jan 8, 1905, and is a longer article in Marion’s series called Familiar Talks with Cottagers and Flat-Dwellers on the treatment of servants.

School for Housewives – Familiar Talks with Cottagers and Flat-Dwellers

Our Maid’s Outings

A young housewife writes: Do not, I beseech you, dismiss the subject of Bridget Thekla before giving us novices in domestic management a few helpful words as to our ‘girls’ afternoons and evenings ‘out.’ Now, here am I, who keep but one maid. We boarded for two years, and did not begin housekeeping until my baby was nearly a year old. Our flat has six rooms and a bath. I have a woman to wash on Monday, my maid of all work doing the ironing and housework, including cooking. She manages it well, and is generally satisfactory. But she wants every other Thursday afternoon and evening out, and every other Sunday afternoon and evening. That means I am to get up dinner and wash up dishes once a fortnight, alternately with the same work on Sunday, with the difference that we have a simple supper on Sunday, having dined at 1 ‘clock.

“My John says it is an imposition upon me – and I must say it does not seem quite fair to my way of thinking. Annie Hagan, who represents Bridget Thekla in my modest establishment, says ‘these are the privileges every gurrel looks to get where there’s but was gurrel kept.”

“Please enlighten me, with a host of others, upon this point. M.E.R.”

There is but one rule that holds good always, everywhere, and in all circumstances. I need not repeat it here – that Golden Rule which ranges all human creatures, of whatever blood and breeding, upon one equal plane.

Put yourself for half an hour, while we two reason together, in Annie Hagan’s place. She has never read Shakespeare, and her theatergoing does not take in Irving and Terry. But you will comprehend why I thought of Shylock as I read your letter. As that much-vilified Jew said of himself, Annie Hagan “has hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions. If you tickle her she will laugh; if you poison her she will die.”


I am as sure as if I had taken afternoon tea with you yesterday hat your flat is comfortable and prettily furnished. I hope that Annie Hagan’s niche in ??? clean, decently appointed, and as airy as in consistent with flat architecture. Her food is the same that is served for yourself and for John. You do not complain when a nice girl “acquaintance” drops in to call upon her in the evening. In fine, you wish Annie Hagan to feel at home in the steam-heated, gas-lighted six-rooms-and-a-bather.

The fact (one of several) remains that it is not her home. She has had a series of such – some worse, some better – in the five or ten years she has spent “in the country.” The roots of her local attachments are slender and lateral. There is no tap root running down from the heart into the new soil; and this is well and merciful. Your slice of a house is nine-tenths of the world to you, because John and the baby and all your best treasures are there. Annie Hagan’s friends, congeners, and blood kindred lie outside of your sphere. Your flat is her factory – her workshop. Cooking, cleaning, and ironing – even her turn at tending baby when you have your “outing” – are her spindles and loom.


Her cousins, the Flanagan sisters, are shop girls, and never tire of taunting her for “taking service” and having but one evening a week to herself. They are free after 6 o’clock every afternoon – as free as any lady in the land. They can walk the streets until midnight, if they like, and have “followers” galore, to say nothing of dressing in colors never flaunted by any bow in the cloud since the first was appointed unto Noah for reassurance.

Annie Hagan has a steady head and right principles. Nevertheless, these things have weight with her, as they would have with you were you “in her place.” Keep these in imagination while we are talking. She may like cooking. She probably does if she cooks well. She may enjoy “redding up” for the pleasure of seeing things look clean and bright when all is done. She may “Take intrust” in baby. There are no better nurses in the world than Irish girls of the best sort. Her livelier and larger interest are in the sphere in which she was born and in which, please Providence and Larry Moran, she hopes to end her days. The same Larry fills as large a space in her dreams as John filled in yours three years agone.

In consideration of all this, she is right in calling the few hours she spends weekly in that world where she lives in heart and in thought, and has her real being, her “privileges.” She may not pronounce the word right, but she enters into its meaning more truly than can you, who make it a point of hygienic conscience to get the fresh air every day.

Why, let a mature manager ask don’t you have supper instead of dinner on Thursday, as well as on Sunday night? What country people know as a “hearty tea?” one John I know looks forward with zest to “the girl’s” evening out, because he always has Sally Lunn for supper.

Sally Lunn, such as you will find described in a recent recipe in our column. The maid set it at noon. All the mistress has to do with it is to put it into the oven and oversee the baking. Baked potatoes and baked beans (baked that forenoon and warmed over in the evening) reconcile this John to cold meat, a salad dressed on the table, crackers and cheese. A pudding or a pie and coffee fill him up satisfactorily.

If your sense of fitness rebels at the thought of washing up your dishes when you are dressed for the evening pile them in the sink, pour hot water, with a liberal dash of ammonia, over them, and leave until nearly bedtime, when you can slip on a wrapper and get them out of the way. Or Annie Hagan – if she be exceptionally appreciative of a good mistress – will ask you to “lave them be” for her to wash early in the morning.

Respect our maid’s “privileges” as you respect your own engagements. Decline invitations for her evenings out steadily. Unless you have mother or sister who can take your place in the home now and then when John has tickets for something he is not wiling to have you miss.

In addition to the outings nominated in the bond between you and Annie Hagan, contrive that she shall go regularly to church. If she is conscientious in the discharge of religious duties – and this from principle, not out of custom or superstition – the more likely will she be to be faithful in her obligations to you.

Once in a while give her an extra outing – a “treat” such as you relish when John gets those tickets unexpectedly. An uncovenanted mercy which belongs to the same category with Alice in Wonderland’s “unbirthday gifts.”

Annie Hagan may not be effusively grateful. Some people do not know how to say “Thank you.” She may even disappoint you by taking the uncovenanted grace as a matter of course and her rightful due. “Some do.” Do it next time as heartily as if she had felt and said the proper thing, and let conscious obedience to the Golden Rule be your rich reward.

Marion Harland


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