Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Social Secretary

The position of social secretary is an entirely clerical one, and never confers any "social privileges" unless the secretary is also "companion."

Her duties are to write all invitations, acceptances, and regrets; keep a record of every invitation received and every one sent out, and to enter in an engagement book every engagement made for her employer, whether to lunch, dinner, to be fitted, or go to the dentist. She also writes all impersonal notes, takes longer letters in shorthand, and writes others herself after being told their purport. She also audits all bills and draws the checks for them, the checks are filled in and then presented to her employer to be signed, after which they are put in their envelopes, sealed and sent. When the receipted bills are returned, the secretary files them according to her own method, where they can at any time be found by her if needed for reference. In many cases it is she (though it is most often the butler) who telephones invitations and other messages.

Occasionally a social secretary is also a social manager; devises entertainments and arranges all details such as the decorations of the house for a dance, or a programme of entertainment following a very large dinner. The social secretary very rarely lives in the house of her employer; more often than not she goes also to one or two other houses—since there is seldom work enough in one to require her whole time.

Miss Brisk, who is Mrs. Gilding's secretary, has little time for any one else. She goes every day for from two to sometimes eight or nine hours in town, and at Golden Hall lives in the house. Usually a secretary can finish all there is to do in an average establishment in about an hour, or at most two, a day, with the addition of five or six hours on two or three other days each month for the paying of bills.

Supposing she takes three positions; she goes to Mrs. A. from 8.30 to 10 every day, and for three extra hours on the 10th and 11th of every month. To Mrs. B. from 10.30 to 1 (her needs being greater) and for six extra hours on the 12th, 13th and 14th of every month. And to Mrs. C. every day at 3 o'clock for an indefinite time of several hours or only a few minutes.

Her dress is that of any business woman. Conspicuous clothes are out of keeping as they would be out of keeping in an office; which, however, is no reason why she should not be well dressed. Well-cut tailor-made suits are the most appropriate with a good-looking but simple hat; as good shoes as she can possibly afford, and good gloves and immaculately clean shirt waists, represent about the most dignified and practical clothes. But why describe clothes! Every woman with good sense enough to qualify as a secretary has undoubtedly sense enough to dress with dignity.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Many Servants For Correct Service?

It stands to reason that one may expect more perfect service from a "specialist" than from one whose functions are multiple. But small houses that have a double equipment—meaning an alternate who can go in the kitchen, and two for the dining-room—can be every bit as well run, so far as essentials go, as the palaces of the Gildings and the Worldlys, though of course not with the same impressiveness. But good service is badly handicapped if, when the waitress goes out, there is no one to open the door, or when the cook goes out, there is no one to prepare a meal.

For what one might call "complete" service, (meaning service that is adequate for constant entertaining and can stand comparison with the most luxurious establishments,) three are the minimum—a cook, a butler (or waitress) and a housemaid. The reason why luncheons and dinners can not be "perfectly" given with a waitress alone is because two persons are necessary for the exactions of modern standards of service. Yet one alone can, on occasion, manage very well, if attention is paid to ordering an especial menu for single-handed service. Aside from the convenience of a second person in the dining-room, a house can not be run very comfortably and smoothly without alternating shifts in staying in and going out. The waitress being on "duty" to answer bell and telephone and serve tea one afternoon, and the housemaid taking her place the next. They also alternate in going out every other evening after dinner.

It should be realized that above the number necessary for essentials, each additional chambermaid, parlor-maid, footman, scullery maid or useful man, is made necessary by the size of the house and by the amount of entertaining usual, rather than (as is often supposed) for the mere reason of show. The seemingly superfluous number of footmen at Golden Hall and Great Estates are, aside from standing on parade at formal parties, needed actually to do the immense amount of work that houses of such size entail; whereas a small apartment can be fairly well looked after by one alone.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What the Butler Wears

The following is from "Etiquette in Society", by Emily Post, 1922

The butler never wears the livery of a footman and on no account knee breeches or powder. In the early morning he wears an ordinary sack suit—black or very dark blue—with a dark, inconspicuous tie. For luncheon or earlier, if he is on duty at the door, he wears black trousers, with gray stripes, a double-breasted, high-cut, black waistcoat, and black swallowtail coat without satin on the revers, a white stiff-bosomed shirt with standing collar, and a black four-in-hand tie.

In fashionable houses, the butler does not put on his dress suit until six o'clock. The butler's evening dress differs from that of a gentleman in a few details only: he has no braid on his trousers, and the satin on his lapels (if any) is narrower, but the most distinctive difference is that a butler wears a black waistcoat and a white lawn tie, and a gentleman always wears a white waistcoat with a white tie, or a white waistcoat and a black tie with a dinner coat, but never the reverse.

Unless he is an old-time servant, a butler who wears a "dress suit" in the daytime is either a hired waiter who has come in to serve a meal, or he has never been employed by persons of position; and it is unnecessary to add that none but vulgarians would employ a butler (or any other house servant) who wears a mustache! To have him open the door collarless and in shirt-sleeves is scarcely worse!

A butler never wears gloves, nor a flower in his buttonhole. He sometimes wears a very thin watch chain in the daytime but none at night. He never wears a scarf-pin, or any jewelry that is for ornament alone. His cuff-links should be as plain as possible, and his shirt studs white enamel ones that look like linen.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why Two Maids?

In very important houses where mother and daughters go out a great deal there are usually two maids, one for the mother and one for the daughters. But even in moderate households it is seldom practical for a d├ębutante and her mother to share a maid—at least during the height of the season. That a maid who has to go out night after night for weeks and even months on end, and sit in the dressing-rooms at balls until four and five and even six in the morning, is then allowed to go to bed and to sleep until luncheon is merely humane. And it can easily be seen that it is more likely that she will need the help of a seamstress to refurbish dance-frocks, than that she will have any time to devote to her young lady's mother—who in "mid-season," therefore, is forced to have a maid of her own, ridiculous as it sounds, that two maids for two ladies should be necessary! Sometimes this is overcome by engaging an especial maid "by the evening" to go to parties and wait, and bring the d├ębutante home again. And the maid at home can then be "maid for two."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Treating a Good Servant Well

A good servant--and by "good" we mean a man or woman who goes about duties cheerfully, is respectful and willing, who is neat, well-mannered and well-trained must be treated in the right manner if he or she is to remain such. There are so many blunders the mistress can make, so many mistakes that bring the wrong response from those who are temporarily a part of her household.

For instance, a haughty, arrogant manner towards a servant who is sensitive will by no means encourage that servant to do his or her best work. And on the other hand, a servile manner towards a good servant one is afraid of losing, encourages that servant to take liberties and become unduly familiar.

It is as difficult to be a good mistress as it is to be a good servant. Both duties require a keen understanding and appreciation of human nature, a kindliness of spirit and a desire to be helpful. Both the servant and the mistress have their trials and troubles, but they should remember that it is only through mutual helpfulness and consideration, an exacting attention to duties and responsibilities, a wise supervision and a faithful service, that harmony and happiness can be reached in the home. And both should bear in mind that this harmony and happiness is
something worth-while striving for, something worth-while being patient and persistent for.

There is an old proverb which literally translated means, "By the servant the master is known." It is a good proverb for both the servant and the mistress to remember.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Should a Maid Wear a Cap?

Sometimes they wear caps and sometimes not, depending upon the waitress' appearance. Twenty years ago, every maid in a lady's house wore a cap except the personal maid, who wore (and still does) a velvet bow, or nothing. But when every little slattern in every sloppy household had a small mat of whitish Swiss pinned somewhere on an untidy head, and was decked out in as many yards of embroidery ruffling on her apron and shoulders as her person could carry, fashionable ladies began taking caps and trimmings off, and exacting instead that clothes be good in cut and hair be neatly arranged.

A few ladies of great taste dress their maids according to individual becomingness; some faces look well under a cap, others look the contrary. A maid whose hair is rather fluffy—especially if it is dark—looks pretty in a cap, particularly of the coronet variety. No one looks well in a doily laid flat, but fluffy fair hair with a small mat tilted up against a knot of hair dressed high can look very smart. A young woman whose hair is straight and rebellious to order, can be made to look tidy and even attractive in a headdress that encircles the whole head. A good one for this purpose has a very narrow ruche from 9 to 18 inches long on either side of a long black velvet ribbon. The ruche goes part way, or all the way, around the head, and the velvet ribbon ties, with streamers hanging down the back. On the other hand, many extremely pretty young women with hair worn flat do not look well in caps of any description—except "Dutch" ones which are, in most houses, too suggestive of fancy dress. If no caps are worn the hair must be faultlessly smooth and neat; and of course where two or more maids are seen together, they must be alike. It would not do to have one wear a cap and the other not.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The House Footmen

All house servants who assist in waiting on the table come under the direction of the butler, and are known as footmen. One who never comes into the dining-room is known as a useful man. The duties of the footmen (and useful man) include cleaning the dining-room, pantry, lower hall, entrance vestibule, sidewalk, attending to the furnace, carrying coal to the kitchen, wood to all the open fireplaces in the house, cleaning the windows, cleaning brasses, cleaning all boots, carrying everything that is heavy, moving furniture for the parlor-maids to clean behind it, valeting all gentlemen, setting and waiting on table, attending the front door, telephoning and writing down messages, and—incessantly and ceaselessly, cleaning and polishing silver.

In a small house, the butler polishes silver, but in a very big house one of the footmen is silver specialist, and does nothing else. Nothing! If there is to be a party of any sort he puts on his livery and joins the others who line the hall and bring dishes to the table. But he does not assist in setting the table or washing dishes or in cleaning anything whatsoever—except silver.

The butler also usually answers the telephone—if not, it is answered by the first footman. The first footman is deputy butler.

The footmen also take turns in answering the door. In houses of great ceremony like those of the Worldlys' and the Gildings', there are always two footmen at the door if anyone is to be admitted. One to open the door and the other to conduct a guest into the drawing-room. But if formal company is expected, the butler himself is in the front hall with one or two footmen at the door.