In the 1940s, when house servants were three times more common in American households than they are today, many homeowners complained, “You can’t get decent help these days.” Here, a former maid tells the other side of the story.
I’ve worked in kitchens from Philadelphia’s haughty Main Line to the crags and canyons of Hollywood, where the homes of the movie stars perch. And it is my forthright opinion that most women have a mean streak in them when dealing with maids.
I don’t feel like a servant. But I do feel like one when some perfectly healthy young woman steps out of her nightie and leaves it lying there on the floor for me to pick up, or when she sits at her desk and throws torn-up snips of paper on the rug instead of dropping them into the wastebasket, or when she lies in state against her pillows while I bring her breakfast on a tray and tuck a cushion in behind her back and fetch a bed jacket.
There is something un-American about this, and about the dozens of other personal services she demands as her right, simply because she happens to be able to pay for them. This isn’t the type of equality and brotherhood our men abroad are fighting for.
—“So You Can’t Keep a Maid!” by Edna Tolman, October 9, 1943
This article appears in the September/October 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.