The Maid’s Tale

The Maid’s Tale by Rose Plummer offers a brief snapshot into an era long gone. A time that no longer exists, with grand houses and plenty of servants and domestic help. A time of horse-drawn carts, when light was provided by candles, when warmth came from a coal fire (if you were lucky enough to afford one), when bathing and showers were a luxury (and infrequent), when hunger was rife and disease was prevelant.

The Maid’s Tale is the story of Rose who was born into poverty in an East-end London slum in 1910. Her family were the poorest of the poor. By the age of fifteen she needed to get a job, as her mother could no longer provide for her. Her options were to work in a factory or to get a domestic help job in a “big” house in the prestigious West-end. Lucky for her she secures a “Live-In” position at a “toffs” house.  She has a glimmer of excitement as she realises she will have her own room and own bed for the first time in her life. She will no longer have to share with her siblings, however her room is at the top of the stairs and is so cold that she struggles to sleep. Every room in the house has a stoked fire providing warmth, except hers. Her room is so cold that there is a layer of ice over her bowl of wash water each morning.  Despite Rose’s hard childhood, nothing could prepare her for the arduous hours (6am until 9pm), back-breaking tasks, harsh conditions and gruelling onslaught that she was to experience as a maid. Yet despite all of this, Rose maintains a optimistic outlook and manages to experience friendship and glimmers of love to help her endure.  This is a short memoir and one that takes the reader temporarily back into the world as it was. Interesting!