In Service: Life Downstairs
Dressed as a Victorian parlor maid, Tames talks about what it was like to live and work downstairs in a late-Victorian house. Due to the economic hardships during this era, being a servant offered the security of a roof over your head, three meals a day, and for some the promise of a pension. Many took pride in their work and felt they were in a better position than a factory worker. With fifty percent of England’s population “in service,” the program gives insight into how this “unseen” half of the population lived and what went on below stairs.
With her wide knowledge of the Victorian era, Tames brings to life the people and activities downstairs. She explains the complicated hierarchy between upper and lower servants, everyone’s duties, the loneliness of a half-day off, and gives a lively account of high jinks downstairs that accompanied the long hours of drudgery. She also compares the security of working for the aristocracy to the drudgery of being a maid of all work.
With so many people in America interested in the “servant question,” this program gives an insight into how servants from the butler to the scullery maid were treated during the late-Victorian era.