In her best interest, the lady’s maid first priority was to study her mistress’ temper. The astute lady’s maid was keenly observant of the most minute changes in mood and disposition because only then could she step in with her services and become indispensible to her mistress.
Indispensability was the status every lady’s maid strived for. As can be akin to many jobs today, by anticipating, she subtly created the dependence between the two, establishing her position in the household. Beyond that indispensability, she must always present herself in a professional manner with proper etiquette and agreeable appearance.
Always ranked as an upper servant, she was accorded a room to herself and in some homes, a very lavishly decorated one. Expected to read and write, she was given The Duties of a Lady’s Maid published in 1825 which, among other things, told her how to chose a color that best fit her lady’s complexion. There were 6 descriptions: carnation, floride, fair, pale, sallow, and brunette.
Some of her duties include: dressing, changing, and undressing her lady; the care of her lady’s wardrobe; mixing and making up of cosmetic potions and cream. She always received her lady’s castoffs, and upon her death expected (if she was good enough) to receive her entire wardrobe.
“The lady’s maid was warned, in particular, to have neither eyes, ears, nor understanding for what your mistress tries to conceal from you. There is nothing will sooner make you feared, distrusted, and ruined.” The Duties of the Lady’s Maid, 1825
I even have recipes for making things (perfume, dyeing leather, etc), but that’s for another blog.