Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My mother was in service. She was one of ten children. When she was eleven, her parents died. The five eldest siblings each took in one of the five youngest. The brother who took my mother was a butler at an English country estate. On her twelfth birthday she became an under house maid. For those who are watching Downton Abbey, she was Daisy. In her late teens, she became Gwen, a very junior house maid on a very large staff. When the war began, she left service to work in an aircraft factory. She was a machinist, working on the Minerva engine used in Spitfires and Hurricanes. She married my father, moved to the United States, worked as a super market checker, seamstress, and eventually returned to service as a housekeeper. Of course, she was also maid, baby sitter, cook, and house cleaner, but she preferred the title held by Mrs. Hughes. She had to return to service because, in 1960, her marriage ended, she needed a job, and that was what she could get. There would be other jobs after that. Some better, some worse. This photograph is dated, "APR 4, 32" and was probably taken in the United States.


  1. Your mother sounds like a good woman who dealt with incredibly hard times. My grandmother was a cook for some wealthy family in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before her marriage and for some years later. She was a wonderful cook.

  2. I just bought a collection of cards sent to a young woman who was a housekeeper in various households in Germany and then emigrated to the United States. There are worse jobs, but that's a lot of hard work.