Modern Day Servants

A recurring theme among writers today is finding the time to balance between life and writing. Honestly, if we could find a workable solution to that problem, more books would get to readers every day. And fewer writers would give up the struggle to do it all.

Of course, men who write may not have the Super Human mania that women tend to inherit. I don’t want to stereotype people based on gender, so I leave the door open to men who are single parents or really good, hands-on dads. Taking care of children, keeping the domicile clean-ish, shopping, cooking, medical and dental appointments, sports stuff, all that is a full-time job. Add on the need to put words on paper, and you have a sleep-deprived person going forward in a loaded mini-van.

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Add a full-time, out of the house job and maybe some activity for health and you are running into 28 hour days. No wonder Americans used children as cleaning staff, gofers, yard care specialists, and pet caregivers.

Once upon a time, even middle-class families had a housekeeper and cook. Rich people had many servants. Because why do something if you can afford to pay someone else to do it? How did this world-wide idea start?

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Slavery did not start in the United States. I am pretty sure you knew that. Back through time, through pre-history, the losing side in any conflict had to serve the winners. Romans brought back conquered peoples to be their servants and some soldiers who could no longer fight became slaves. Check out the Servile Wars for details on how badly that turned out.

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Poor families often sold children into slavery to survive. After all, there was always a chance the child would grow up to be valuable enough that the owners would grant them freedom. Better than starving to death, anyway.

Through Europe and the UK, as time went on, slaves were replaced with poorly paid servants who were tied to the family through loyalty and the fact that poor people starved to death every day or were put in a debtor’s prison. At least in service, they had a respectable occupation, a place to sleep, and food.

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Sometime around the Georgian era in England, servants of a particular type began to take on a status of their own. The lady’s maids and valets were indispensable. Cooks, housekeepers, and butlers were the brain of the estate or household. They cherished the social status of the family they served, becoming outraged if certain required trappings were not in evidence.

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I will take a closer look at Regency, Victorian, and Modern servants in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

Note: In no way do I want to downplay or discredit the horrible fate of African natives who were sold into slavery and brought to the New World.  The destruction of a civilization is a crime that will never be set right. I am looking mostly at how slaves of any race became servants.

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