Domestic worker
A domestic worker is a man, woman or child who works within the employer's household
The household is "the basic residential unit in which economic production, consumption, inheritance, child rearing, and shelter are organized and carried out"; [the household] "may or may not be synonymous with family"....

. Domestic workers perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children
Child care means caring for and supervising child/children usually from 0–13 years of age. In the United States child care is increasingly referred to as early childhood education due to the understanding of the impact of early experiences of the developing child...

 and elderly dependents to cleaning and household maintenance, known as housekeeping. Responsibilities may also include cooking
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...

, doing laundry and ironing
Ironing is the use of a heated tool to remove wrinkles from fabric. The heating is commonly done to a temperature of 180-220 °Celsius, depending on the fabric. Ironing works by loosening the bonds between the long-chain polymer molecules in the fibers of the material...

, food shopping and other household errands. Some domestic workers live within the household where they work.

The conditions faced by domestic workers have varied considerably throughout history and in the contemporary world. In the course of twentieth-century movements for labour rights, women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

 and immigrant rights, the conditions faced by domestic workers and the problems specific to their class of employment have come to the force. In 2011, the International Labour Organization
International Labour Organization
The International Labour Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues pertaining to international labour standards. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Its secretariat — the people who are employed by it throughout the world — is known as the...

 adopted the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers
Convention on domestic workers
The Convention on Domestic Workers, formally the Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers is a convention setting labour standards for domestic workers...

 which covers decent work conditions for domestic workers. Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses of 117 countries, place the number of domestic workers at around 53 million. But the ILO itself states that "experts say that due to the fact that this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered, the total number of domestic workers could be as high as 100 million". The ILO also states that 83% of domestic workers are women and many are migrant workers.

Servant is an older English term for "domestic worker", though not all servants worked inside the home.


Domestic service, or the employment of people for wages in their employer's residence, was sometimes simply called "service". It evolved into a hierarchical system in various countries at various times.

The United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's Master and Servant Act
Master and Servant Act
Master and Servant Acts or Masters and Servants Acts were laws designed to regulate relations between employers and employees during the 18th and 19th centuries. An 1823 United Kingdom Act described its purpose as "the better regulations of servants, labourers and work people"...

 of 1823 was the first of its kind and influenced the creation of domestic service laws in other nations, although legislation tended to favour employers. However, before the passing of such Acts servants, and workers in general, had no protection in law. The only real advantage that domestic service provided was the provision of meals, accommodation, and sometimes clothes, in addition to a modest wage. Service was normally an apprentice system with room for advancement through the ranks.

In Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 this system peaked towards the close of the Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

, perhaps reaching its most complicated and rigidly structured state during the Edwardian period
Edwardian period
The Edwardian era or Edwardian period in the United Kingdom is the period covering the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910.The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 and the succession of her son Edward marked the end of the Victorian era...

, which reflected the limited social mobility
Social mobility
Social mobility refers to the movement of people in a population from one social class or economic level to another. It typically refers to vertical mobility -- movement of individuals or groups up from one socio-economic level to another, often by changing jobs or marrying; but can also refer to...

 of the time. The equivalent in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 was the Gilded Age
Gilded Age
In United States history, the Gilded Age refers to the era of rapid economic and population growth in the United States during the post–Civil War and post-Reconstruction eras of the late 19th century. The term "Gilded Age" was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their book The Gilded...


Current situation around the world

In July 2011, at the annual International Labour Conference, held by the ILO, conference delegates adopted C189, the Convention on Domestic Workers (2011) by a vote of 396 to 16, with 63 abstentions. The Convention recognizes domestic workers as workers with the same rights as other workers. The Convention text can be found on the ILO website here.

Throughout the world, most domestic workers are from the same country in which they work. They may live at home, though they are usually "live-in" domestics, meaning they receive room and board
Room and board
Room and board describes a situation where, in exchange for money, labor or other considerations, a person is provided with a place to live as well as meals on a comprehensive basis...

 as part of their salaries. Because of the large gap between urban and rural incomes, and the lack of employment opportunities in the countryside, even an ordinary middle class urban family can afford to employ a full-time live-in servant. The majority of domestic workers in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, and other populous developing countries, are people from the rural areas who are employed by urban families.

'In Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

, it is estimated that eight percent of all women work as domestic workers. They hardly have any legal protection. According to Guatemalan labour law, domestic work is “subject neither to a working time statute nor to regulations on the maximum number of working hours in a day”. Legally, domestic helpers are only entitled to ten hours of free time in 24 hours, and one day off per week. But very often, these minimal employment laws are disregarded, and so are basic civil liberties.'

In Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, domestic workers must be hired under a registered contract and have most of the rights of any other workers, which includes a minimum wage
Minimum wage
A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers. Equivalently, it is the lowest wage at which workers may sell their labour. Although minimum wage laws are in effect in a great many jurisdictions, there are differences of opinion about...

, remunerated vacations and a remunerated weekly day off. It is not uncommon, however, to hire servants without registering them. Since servants come almost always from the lower, uneducated classes, they are sometimes ignorant of their rights, especially in the rural zone. Nevertheless, domestics employed without a proper contract sometimes sue their employers to get compensation from abuses.

In the United States, domestic workers are excluded from many of the legal protections afforded to other classes of worker, including the provisions of the National Labour Relations Act. Traditionally domestic workers have mostly been women and are likely to be immigrants.

Child domestic workers

The use of children as domestic servants continues to be common in parts of the world, such as Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

 or parts of Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. Such children are very vulnerable to exploitation: often they are not allowed to take breaks or are required to work long hours; many suffer from a lack of access to education, which can contribute to social isolation and a lack of future opportunity. UNICEF considers domestic work to be among the lowest status, and reports that most child domestic workers are live-in workers and are under the round-the-clock control of their employers. Some estimates suggest that among girls, domestic work is the most common form of employment. Child domestic work is common in countries such as Bangladesh or Pakistan. It has been estimated that globally, at least 10 million children work in domestic labor jobs.

Domestic work and international migration

Many countries import domestic workers from abroad, usually poorer countries, through recruitment agencies
Employment agency
An employment agency is an organization which matches employers to employees. In all developed countries there is a publicly funded employment agency and multiple private businesses which also act as employment agencies.-Public employment agencies:...

 and brokers because their own nationals are no longer obliged or inclined to do domestic work. This includes most Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

ern countries, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, Malaysia and Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

. For most of these countries, the number of domestic workers run into the hundreds of thousands. There are at least one million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...


Major sources of domestic workers include the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, and Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. Taiwan also imports domestic workers from Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 and Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

. Organizations such as Kalayaan
Kalayaan (charity)
Kalayaan is a United Kingdom charity which works with and to support migrant domestic workers in the UK. The word 'kalayaan' means 'freedom' in Tagalog, with over 200,000 Filipinos working in the UK as domestic workers.Kalayaan won the 2006 Centre for...

 support the growing number of these migrant domestic workers
Migrant domestic workers
Migrant Domestic Workers who work for wealthy families in the UK are currently allowed to change employers without breaking the law so long as they continue working full time as a domestic worker in a private household....



Employers may require their domestic workers to wear a uniform
A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates...

, livery
A livery is a uniform, insignia or symbol adorning, in a non-military context, a person, an object or a vehicle that denotes a relationship between the wearer of the livery and an individual or corporate body. Often, elements of the heraldry relating to the individual or corporate body feature in...

 or other "domestic workers' clothes" when in their employers' residence. The uniform is usually simple, and was even in the 19th century and 20th centuries. Female servants wore long, plain, dark-coloured dresses or black
Black is the color of objects that do not emit or reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum; they absorb all such frequencies of light...

 skirts with white belts and white blouse
A blouse is a loose-fitting upper garment that was formerly worn by workmen, peasants, artists, women and children. It is typically gathered at the waist so that it hangs loosely over the wearer's body. Today, the word most commonly refers to a woman's shirt but can also refer to a man's shirt if...

s, and black shoes, and male servants and butlers would wear something from a simple suit
Suit (clothing)
In clothing, a suit is a set of garments made from the same cloth, consisting of at least a jacket and trousers. Lounge suits are the most common style of Western suit, originating in the United Kingdom as country wear...

, or a white dress shirt
Dress shirt
A shirt, or dress shirt in American English, is a garment with a collar, a full-length opening at the front from the collar to the hem, and sleeves with cuffs. Shirts are predominantly used by men, since women usually wear blouses...

, often with tie
Tie may refer to:* Necktie, a long piece of cloth worn around the neck or shoulders* Tie , a finish to a competition with identical results, particularly sports...

, and knickers
Knickerbockers (clothing)
Knickerbockers are men's or boys' breeches or baggy-kneed trousers particularly popular in the early twentieth century USA. Golfers' plus twos and plus fours were breeches of this type...

. In traditional portrayals, the attire of domestic workers especially was typically more formal and conservative than that of those whom they serve. For example, in films of the early 20th century, a butler might appear in a tailcoat, while male family members and guests appeared in lounge suits or sports jackets and trousers depending on the occasion. In later portrayals, the employer and guests might wear casual slacks or even jeans, while a male domestic worker wore a jacket and tie or a white dress shirt with black pants, necktie or bowtie, maybe even waistcoat, or a female domestic worker either a blouse and skirt (or trousers) or a dress.


Many domestic workers are live-in domestics. Though they often have their own quarters, their accommodations are not usually as comfortable as those reserved for the family members. In some cases, they sleep in the kitchen or small rooms, such as a box room, sometimes located in the basement or attic.

Notable domestic workers

Real people

  • Céleste Albaret
    Celeste (film)
    Céleste is a German film by Percy Adlon about the life of the French writer Marcel Proust as he lay in his bed from 1912 to 1922; the story is told through the eyes of his real life maid, Céleste Albaret...

    , housekeeper of Marcel Proust
    Marcel Proust
    Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

  • Gladys Aylward
    Gladys Aylward
    Gladys May Aylward was the evangelical Christian missionary to China whose story was told in the book The Small Woman by Alan Burgess, published in 1957...

    , maid, afterwards missionary
  • Alice Ayres
    Alice Ayres
    Alice Ayres was an English nursemaid honoured for her bravery in rescuing the children in her care from a house fire. Ayres was a household assistant and nursemaid to the family of her brother-in-law and sister, Henry and Mary Ann Chandler...

  • Sarah Balabagan
    Sarah Balabagan
    Sarah Balabagan was a Filipina prisoner in the United Arab Emirates during 1994 - 96 whose case caused a good deal of controversy...

  • Fonzworth Bentley
    Fonzworth Bentley
    Derrick Watkins, in Atlanta, Georgia and popularly known as Fonzworth Bentley or Farnsworth Bentley, is a musician and author. He is perhaps best known for being Sean Combs' former personal valet and assistant, as first seen in Making the Band 2, and is currently the host of MTV's From G's to Gents...

  • Paul Burrell
    Paul Burrell
    Paul Burrell, RVM is a former servant of the British Royal Household. He was a footman for Queen Elizabeth II and later butler to Diana, Princess of Wales...

    , butler to Diana, Princess of Wales
    Diana, Princess of Wales
    Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, whom she married on 29 July 1981, and an international charity and fundraising figure, as well as a preeminent celebrity of the late 20th century...

  • Flor Contemplacion
    Flor Contemplacion
    Flor R. Contemplacion born in San Pablo City, Laguna, Philippines was a Filipina domestic worker who was executed in Singapore for murder...

  • Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten was an American blues and folk musician, singer, and songwriter.A self-taught left-handed guitarist, Cotten developed her own original style. Her approach involved using a right-handed guitar , not re-strung for left-handed playing, essentially, holding a right-handed...

  • Hannah Cullwick
    Hannah Cullwick
    Hannah Cullwick was a Victorian era diarist and domestic servant. She is known for her unusual relationship with Arthur Munby, which they both documented in diaries, letters and photographs.-Early life:...

  • Lisette Denison Forth
    Lisette Denison Forth
    Lisette Denison Forth was an African-American woman from Michigan who was born a slave. She worked as a maid and became a landowner and philanthropist.-Early life:...

    , maid and philanthropist
  • Caroline Herschel
    Caroline Herschel
    Caroline Lucretia Herschel was a German-British astronomer, the sister of astronomer Sir Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel with whom she worked throughout both of their careers. Her most significant contribution to astronomy was the discovery of several comets and in particular the periodic comet...

    , astronomer (worked as a domestic servant in her father's household until his death)
  • Paul Hogan
    Paul Hogan (butler)
    Paul Hogan is a former Australian Consul turned celebrity butler. He is most famous to television audiences for portraying “the Butler” on the TV series Joe Millionaire...

  • Dora Lee Jones
    Dora Lee Jones
    Dora Lee Jones was a domestic worker in early 20th century New York. She was a plump, energetic, round faced African American woman with large eyes. She helped to found a Domestic Workers' Union in Harlem in 1934...

  • Margaret Maher
    Margaret Maher
    Margaret Maher was a long-term domestic worker in the household of American poet Emily Dickinson.- Early life in Ireland :Margaret was born on 25 February 1841 in Killusty, a townland in a region of South Tipperary known as the Golden Vale of the River Suir.Margaret's father, Michael Maher , was a...

    , maid to Emily Dickinson
    Emily Dickinson
    Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life...

  • Papin sisters
    Papin sisters
    Christine Papin and Léa Papin were two French maids who murdered their employer's wife and daughter in Le Mans, France, on 2 February 1933...

  • Lillian Rogers Parks
    Lillian Rogers Parks
    Lillian Rogers Parks was an American maid and seamstress in the White House.With the journalist Frances Spatz Leighton, co-author of a number of White House memoirs, Parks published My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House. The book covers a 60-year period in the life of domestic staff in the...

  • Rose Porteous
    Rose Porteous
    Rose Porteous , a Filipino-born Australian, is best known for her marriage to Lang Hancock, a West Australian iron ore mining magnate, and the protracted legal battle with her step-daughter, Gina Rinehart, over the circumstances that lead to the death of Hancock, and the distribution of his estate...

  • Casimira Rodríguez
    Casimira Rodriguez
    Casimira Rodríguez was the Bolivian Justice Minister from February 2006 until January 23, 2007. She is a former leader in the Domestic Workers' Union, which she helped found. Rodríguez was Bolivia’s first indigenous Quechua woman to serve as a government minister...

  • Margaret Rogers
    Margaret Rogers
    Margaret 'Maggie' Rogers was a maid at the White House who served for 30 years , during the administrations of Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and part of Franklin D...

Fictional characters

  • Hugo Barrett, the valet in the film The Servant
  • Mr. Belvedere from the sitcom Mr. Belvedere
    Mr. Belvedere
    Mr. Belvedere is an American sitcom that originally aired on ABC from March 15, 1985, until July 8, 1990. The series was based on the Lynn Aloysius Belvedere character created by Gwen Davenport for her 1947 novel Belvedere, which was later adapted into the 1948 film Sitting Pretty...

  • Benson from the sitcom Soap
    Soap (TV series)
    Soap is an American sitcom that originally ran on ABC from 1977 to 1981.The show was created as a parody of daytime soap operas, presented as a weekly half-hour prime time comedy. Similar to a soap opera, the show's story was presented in a serial format and included melodramatic plot elements such...

    and the spin-off show Benson
    Benson (TV series)
    Benson is an American television sitcom which aired from September 13, 1979, to April 19, 1986, on ABC. The series was a spin-off from the soap opera parody Soap ; however, Benson discarded the...

  • Berta, the Harpers' housekeeper on Two and a Half Men
    Two and a Half Men
    Two and a Half Men is an American television sitcom that premiered on CBS on September 22, 2003. Starring Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer, and Angus T. Jones, the show was originally about a hedonistic jingle writer, Charlie Harper; his uptight brother, Alan; and Alan's growing son, Jake...

  • Ellen and Clara Brill from Mary Poppins
    Mary Poppins
    Mary Poppins is a series of children's books written by P. L. Travers and originally illustrated by Mary Shepard. The books centre on a magical English nanny, Mary Poppins. She is blown by the East wind to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London and into the Banks' household to care for their...

  • Geoffrey from the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
    The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
    The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an American television sitcom that originally aired on NBC from September 10, 1990 to May 20, 1996. The show stars Will Smith as a fictionalized version of himself, a street-smart teenager from West Philadelphia who is sent to move in with his aunt and uncle in their...

  • Celestine, the chambermaid in Octave Mirbeau's novel The Diary of a Chambermaid and in the two films adapted from it
  • Crichton
    The Admirable Crichton
    The Admirable Crichton is a comic stage play written in 1902 by J. M. Barrie. It was produced by Charles Frohman and opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in London on 4 November 1902, running for an extremely successful 828 performances. It starred H. B. Irving and Irene Vanbrugh...

  • Mrs. Doyle, housekeeper for the three priests in Father Ted
    Father Ted
    Father Ted is a comedy series set in Ireland that was produced by Hat Trick Productions for British broadcaster Channel 4. Written jointly by Irish writers Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan and starring a predominantly Irish cast, it originally aired over three series from 21 April 1995 until 1 May...

  • Jane Eyre
    Jane Eyre
    Jane Eyre is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published in London, England, in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. with the title Jane Eyre. An Autobiography under the pen name "Currer Bell." The first American edition was released the following year by Harper & Brothers of New York...

    , heroine of the novel Jane Eyre, a governess
  • Mr. French from the sitcom Family Affair
    Family Affair
    Family Affair is an American sitcom that aired on CBS from September 12, 1966 to September 9, 1971. The series explored the trials of well-to-do civil engineer and bachelor Bill Davis as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment. Davis' traditional...

  • Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper in The Turn of the Screw
    The Turn of the Screw
    The Turn of the Screw is a novella written by Henry James. Originally published in 1898, it is ostensibly a ghost story.Due to its ambiguous content, it became a favourite text of academics who subscribe to New Criticism. The novella has had differing interpretations, often mutually exclusive...

    by Henry James
  • Hirsch, Mrs. Carlson's butler in the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati
    WKRP in Cincinnati
    WKRP in Cincinnati is an American situation comedy that featured the misadventures of the staff of a struggling fictional radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. The show was created by Hugh Wilson and was based upon his experiences working in advertising sales at Top 40 radio station WQXI in Atlanta...

  • Mr. Hudson
    Angus Hudson
    Angus Hudson was a fictional character in the ITV drama Upstairs, Downstairs, portrayed by actor Gordon Jackson from 1971 until 1975.-Biography:...

    from the TV serial Upstairs, Downstairs
    Upstairs, Downstairs
    Upstairs, Downstairs is a British drama television series originally produced by London Weekend Television and revived by the BBC. It ran on ITV in 68 episodes divided into five series from 1971 to 1975, and a sixth series shown on the BBC on three consecutive nights, 26–28 December 2010.Set in a...

  • Jeeves
    Reginald Jeeves is a fictional character in the short stories and novels of P. G. Wodehouse, being the valet of Bertie Wooster . Created in 1915, Jeeves would continue to appear in Wodehouse's works until his final, completed, novel Aunts Aren't Gentlemen in 1974, making him Wodehouse's most famous...

     a valet
    Valet and varlet are terms for male servants who serve as personal attendants to their employer.- Word origins :In the Middle Ages, the valet de chambre to a ruler was a prestigious appointment for young men...

     from P. G. Wodehouse
    P. G. Wodehouse
    Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE was an English humorist, whose body of work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics, and numerous pieces of journalism. He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years and his many writings continue to be...

    's stories.
  • Miss Jessel, the governess in The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Florence Johnston, from The Jeffersons
    The Jeffersons
    The Jeffersons is an American sitcom that was broadcast on CBS from January 18, 1975, through June 25, 1985, lasting 11 seasons and a total of 253 episodes. The show was produced by the T.A.T. Communications Company from 1975–1982 and by Embassy Television from 1982-1985...

  • Joseph, Elliott's manservant in The Razor's Edge
    The Razor's Edge
    The Razor’s Edge is a book by W. Somerset Maugham published in 1944. Its epigraph reads, "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." taken from a verse in the Katha-Upanishad....

  • Janet MacPherson, the housekeeper in Dr. Finlay's Casebook
  • Mammy, the maid in Gone with the Wind (film)|Gone with the Wind]]
  • Niles, the Butler from the sitcom The Nanny
    The Nanny (TV series)
    The Nanny is an American television sitcom co-produced by Sternin & Fraser Ink, Inc., and Fran Drescher in association with TriStar Television for the CBS network...

  • Sancho Panza
    Sancho Panza
    Sancho Panza is a fictional character in the novel Don Quixote written by Spanish author Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605. Sancho acts as squire to Don Quixote, and provides comments throughout the novel, known as sanchismos, that are a combination of broad humour, ironic Spanish proverbs,...

    , from Don Quixote
  • Alfred Pennyworth
    Alfred Pennyworth
    Alfred Pennyworth is a fictional character that appears throughout the DC Comics franchise. The character first appears in Batman #16 , and was created by writer Bob Kane and artist Jerry Robinson. Alfred serves as Batman’s tireless butler, assistant, confidant, and surrogate father figure...

    , butler to Batman
    Batman is a fictional character created by the artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. A comic book superhero, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 , and since then has appeared primarily in publications by DC Comics...

  • Planchet
    A planchet is a round metal disk that is ready to be struck as a coin. An older word for planchet is flan. They are also referred to as blanks.-History:The preparation of the flan or planchet has varied over the years...

    , from The Three Musketeers
    The Three Musketeers
    The Three Musketeers is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, first serialized in March–July 1844. Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d'Artagnan after he leaves home to travel to Paris, to join the Musketeers of the Guard...

  • Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons
    The Jetsons
    The Jetsons is a animated American sitcom that was produced by Hanna-Barbera, originally airing in prime-time from 1962–1963 and again from 1985–1987...

  • Rosario Salazar
    Rosario Salazar
    Rosario Inés Consuelo Yolanda Salazar McFarland is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Will & Grace. She is played by actress Shelley Morrison...

    , maid to Karen Walker in Will and Grace
  • Stevens in the 1989 novel The Remains of the Day
    The Remains of the Day
    The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro's third published novel. One of the most highly-regarded post-war British novels, the work was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989...

  • Alf Stokes, butler, from the sitcom You Rang, M'lord?
    You Rang, M'Lord?
    You Rang M'Lord? is a British television series written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, the creators of Dad's Army, It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Hi-de-Hi! It was broadcast between 1990 and 1993 on the BBC...

Different domestic worker jobs

  • Au pair
    Au pair
    An au pair is a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family's responsibility for childcare as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use...

    , foreign-national domestic assistant working for, and living as part of, a host family
  • Between maid
    Between maid
    A between maid is a female junior servant in a large household with many staff...

    , an in-between maid; her duties being half in the reception rooms and half in the kitchen
  • Boot boy
    Boot boy
    A boot boy, often simply boots, was an English household servant. Usually a boy or young teenager, the boots was the lowest-ranking male servant; his main job was to clean, polish and care for the household members' boots and shoes, although he may have done other odd jobs as well, particularly in...

    , a young male servant, employed mostly to perform footwear maintenance and minor auxiliary tasks
  • Butler
    A butler is a domestic worker in a large household. In great houses, the household is sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry. Some also have charge of the entire parlour floor, and housekeepers caring for the entire house and its...

    , a senior employee, almost invariably a man, whose duties traditionally include overseeing the wine cellar
    Wine cellar
    A wine cellar is a storage room for wine in bottles or barrels, or more rarely in carboys, amphorae or plastic containers. In an active wine cellar, important factors such as temperature and humidity are maintained by a climate control system. In contrast, passive wine cellars are not...

    , the silverware
    Silver (household)
    Household silver or silverware includes dishware, cutlery and other household items made of sterling, Britannia or Sheffield plate silver. The term is often extended to items made of stainless steel...

    , and some oversight of the other servants
  • Charlady
    A charlady, char or charwoman was an English house cleaner. The term has the same roots as "chore woman," one hired to do odd chores around the house. A char or chare was a turn in the sixteenth century, and which gave rise to prefix being used to denote people that worked in domestic situations...

     or char, a female house cleaner servant
  • Chauffeur
    A chauffeur is a person employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle, especially a luxury vehicle such as a large sedan or limousine.Originally such drivers were always personal servants of the vehicle owner, but now in many cases specialist chauffeur service companies, or individual drivers provide...

    , a personal driver
  • Cook
    Cook (profession)
    A cook is a person who prepares food for consumption. In Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Canada this profession requires government approval ....

    , either a cook who works alone or the head of a team of cooks
  • Dog walker
  • Footman
    A footman is a male servant, notably as domestic staff.-Word history:The name derives from the attendants who ran beside or behind the carriages of aristocrats, many of whom were chosen for their physical attributes. They ran alongside the coach to make sure it was not overturned by such obstacles...

  • Gardener
  • Governess
    A governess is a girl or woman employed to teach and train children in a private household. In contrast to a nanny or a babysitter, she concentrates on teaching children, not on meeting their physical needs...

    , a woman teacher for the children
  • Groundskeeper
  • Handyman
    A handyman is a person skilled at a wide range of repairs, typically around the home. These tasks include trade skills, repair work, maintenance work, both interior and exterior, and are sometimes described as "odd jobs", "fix-up tasks", and include light plumbing jobs such as fixing a leaky toilet...

     (household repairs)
  • Horse trainer
    Horse trainer
    In horse racing, a trainer prepares a horse for races, with responsibility for exercising it, getting it race-ready and determining which races it should enter...

  • Housemaid
  • Housekeeper
    Housekeeper (servant)
    A housekeeper is an individual responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the interior of a residence, including direction of subordinate maids...

    , a senior employee, usually female
  • Knave
    Knave may refer to:* Knave , a British adult magazine*A male servant see also varlet*A journeyman*Another name for the Jack in a deck of cards*In knights and knaves logic puzzles, a person who always lies...

  • Lackey
  • Laundress
  • Maid
    A maidservant or in current usage housemaid or maid is a female employed in domestic service.-Description:Once part of an elaborate hierarchy in great houses, today a single maid may be the only domestic worker that upper and even middle-income households can afford, as was historically the case...

  • Masseur/Masseuse
  • Nanny
    A nanny, childminder or child care provider, is an individual who provides care for one or more children in a family as a service...

     (once known as a nurse), a woman taking care of infants and children
  • Nursemaid
    A nursemaid or nursery maid, is mostly a historical term of employment for a female servant in an elite household. In the 21st century, the position is largely defunct, owing to the relatively small number of households who maintain large staffs with the traditional hierarchy.The nursery maid...

  • Personal shopper
    Personal shopper
    Personal shopping is an occupation where people help others shop by giving advice and making suggestions to customers. They are often employed by department stores and boutiques...

  • Personal trainer
    Personal trainer
    A personal trainer is a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction. They motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client's strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments...

     (fitness, swimming, sports)
  • Pool person
    Cabana boy
    A cabana boy is a male attendant performing sexual services to the guests of a hotel or a large private estate, operating from a nearby cabaña , notably on a beach. A pool boy performs the same duties at a swimming pool...

  • Scullery maid
    Scullery maid
    In great houses, scullery maids were the lowest-ranked and often the youngest of the female servants and acted as assistant to a kitchen maid. The scullery maid reported to the cook or chef...

  • Secretary
    A secretary, or administrative assistant, is a person whose work consists of supporting management, including executives, using a variety of project management, communication & organizational skills. These functions may be entirely carried out to assist one other employee or may be for the benefit...

     (social or corresponding)
  • Security guard
    Security guard
    A security guard is a person who is paid to protect property, assets, or people. Security guards are usually privately and formally employed personnel...

  • Stable boy
  • Valet
    Valet and varlet are terms for male servants who serve as personal attendants to their employer.- Word origins :In the Middle Ages, the valet de chambre to a ruler was a prestigious appointment for young men...

     or "gentleman's gentleman", responsible for the master's wardrobe and assisting him in dressing, etc. In the armed forces some officers have a soldier (in the British army called a batman) for such duties
  • Wet nurse
    Wet nurse
    A wet nurse is a woman who is used to breast feed and care for another's child. Wet nurses are used when the mother is unable or chooses not to nurse the child herself. Wet-nursed children may be known as "milk-siblings", and in some cultures the families are linked by a special relationship of...

    , provides suckling for infants if mothers do not wish to do so themselves

See also

  • Convention on domestic workers
    Convention on domestic workers
    The Convention on Domestic Workers, formally the Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers is a convention setting labour standards for domestic workers...

  • Female servants in 18th century England
  • Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong
    Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong
    Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are foreign domestic workers and housemaids employed by Hongkongers, typically families. They make up approximately 3% of the population of Hong Kong and an overwhelming majority of them are women...

  • Household chore
  • Isabella Beeton ("Mrs Beeton") and The Book of Household Management
  • Maid
    A maidservant or in current usage housemaid or maid is a female employed in domestic service.-Description:Once part of an elaborate hierarchy in great houses, today a single maid may be the only domestic worker that upper and even middle-income households can afford, as was historically the case...

  • National Union of Domestic Employees
    National Union of Domestic Employees
    The National Union of Domestic Employees is a trade union in Trinidad and Tobago.In 1974, Clotil Walcott, along with James Lynch, Salisha Ali and others, established The National Union of Domestic Employees as a section of the Union of Ship Builders, Ship Repairers and Allied Workers Union...

  • Saint Zita
    Saint Zita was an Italian saint, the patron saint of maids and domestic servants. She is also appealed to in order to help find lost keys.-Life:...

    , the patron saint of domestic servants
  • Similar work performed not within the home but, for example, on cruise line
    Cruise line
    A cruise line is a company that operates cruise ships. Cruise lines have a dual character; they are partly in the transportation business, and partly in the leisure entertainment business, a duality that carries down into the ships themselves, which have both a crew headed by the ship's captain,...


  • The Diary of a Chambermaid, a novel by Octave Mirbeau
    Octave Mirbeau
    Octave Mirbeau was a French journalist, art critic, travel writer, pamphleteer, novelist, and playwright, who achieved celebrity in Europe and great success among the public, while still appealing to the literary and artistic avant-garde...

  • The Man Booker prize winning novel The Remains of the Day
    The Remains of the Day
    The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro's third published novel. One of the most highly-regarded post-war British novels, the work was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989...

  • Upstairs, Downstairs
    Upstairs, Downstairs
    Upstairs, Downstairs is a British drama television series originally produced by London Weekend Television and revived by the BBC. It ran on ITV in 68 episodes divided into five series from 1971 to 1975, and a sixth series shown on the BBC on three consecutive nights, 26–28 December 2010.Set in a...

    , a British television series set in London
  • Downton Abbey
    Downton Abbey
    Downton Abbey is a British television period drama series, produced by NBC Universal-owned British media company Carnival Films for the ITV network. The series is set during the late Edwardian era and the First World War on the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in Yorkshire, and features an...

    , a British television series set in a large country house

Further reading

  • The Duties of Servants; by a member of the aristocracy, author of 'Manners and Rules of Good Society'. London: F. Warne & Co., 1894
  • A Few Rules for the Manners of Servants in Good Families. Ladies' Sanitary Association, 1901
  • The Servants' Practical Guide: a handbook of duties and rules; by the author of 'Manners and Tone of Good Society'. London: Frederick Warne & Co., [1880]
    • The Management of Servants: a practical guide to the routine of domestic service; by the author of “Manners and Tone of Good Society.” (the same work under a different title)
  • Dawes, Frank (1973) Not in Front of the Servants: domestic service in England 1850-1939. London: Wayland ISBN 0853402876
  • Evans, Siân (2011) Life below Stairs in the Victorian and Edwardian Country House. National Trust Books
    • --do.--"Yells, Bells and Smells ... from royal visits ... to the case of the cook and the freezer", in: National Trust Magazine; Autumn 2011, pp. 70-73

External links

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