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Poem: "The Steamsmith" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Steamsmith"
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ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 6th, 2011 08:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>>True, but in 'our' Victorian England maids were more or less free game,<<

That depended on the noble(s) who ran the house. There were various schools of thought on this issue, and people argued about it, including but not limited to:
* those who believed in treating people decently regardless of class
* those who didn't care about lower classes, but would not sully their own pure flesh by having sex outside their class
* those who felt that nobility and/or wealth entitled them to do as they damn pleased

When I looked up materials on Victorian culture and what it means to be a gentleman, I found remnants of and references to that argument -- whether nobility depended more or character or on birth, and whether or not the nobles had (or practiced) any degree of responsibility to commoners. That's just as much an issue in Maryam's world as it was in ours, but some of the details vary because the context is different.

>> and more often than not if one found herself pregnant she was thrown out. <<

True, probably in both worlds.

>> Maryam's father is definitely not average,<<

Right. Plenty of his peers find his morality annoying. He's not entirely alone, though; he's just up toward the top end of self-expectations.

>> but her mother might have seen more than one friend working in a different house ending up on the street or in a workhouse.<<

Very likely, yes. She really does have a great job for someone of her skills; I can't blame her for wanting to keep it rather than venture into a different role she knew nothing about.

Also worth mentioning: If you mistreat the help, they become a lot less helpful. They might just be nervous and drop things. They might spit in the soup. They might steal things. They might quit without notice. If they're really upset and opportunity presents, they might take a bribe for information or access to your personal space or what-all else. They certainly aren't liable to stick up for you if you need it. Households with a lord who likes to futter the maids -- especially if they aren't wholly willing -- tend to have a high turnover and other hassles. No amount of wealth or prestige can alleviate those problems entirely, and that was quite well known and often talked about. It made for a lot of gossip because households varied, but most of them had at least one way of treating servants shabbily. Some of the antagonists will likely be this type of upperclass.

Conversely, a household that treats its servants well can attract the best skilled and most loyal ones, often even if the pay isn't as good as some other house offers. The service is usually competent and faithful, and the turnover considerably lower. It's a very subtle form of power to have, because most society personages just don't think of it -- but it's real and it can make a huge different at the right moment. Maryam got this one from both of her parents, different aspects of it, and it's very useful to her.

A service family may have members spread over a number of employers, and servants talk to each other, so they know who the bad and good employers are. You can tell a great deal about a man, based on whether and what his servants say about him.
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