And it shows up one of the oft unappreciated details of the way that the “life in service” worked. It wasn’t actually a life at all.
Florence Georgina Copeland was born on December 8 1912 in West Ham, London, the daughter of a Billingsgate fish porter who was killed in the Great War. Having taken Flo and her younger brother to live at Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, her mother remarried and had three more daughters.
Aged 16, Flo went to London, where she found work as a kitchen maid
So she enters service in 1928 or so.
In 1940 she married Robert Wadlow,
Which was the end of her life in service.
There were those who stayed in all their lives, yes. Those who became butlers and housekeepers for example. But for the majority of servants it was a period of life: almost, if I dare say it, an apprenticeship. There were indeed a couple of million servants around the turn of the last century. But not a couple of million who were simply servants all their lives: rather, a very decent chunk of the population passed through service for some number of years.
Very different from how we normally think of it.