Working as a housekeeper was one of the most prestigious jobs a 19th and early 20th century woman could want - and also one of the toughest. A far cry from the Downton Abbey fiction, the real life Mrs. Hughes was up against capricious mistresses, low pay, no job security, and grueling physical labor. Until now, her story has never been told.
The Housekeeper's Tale reveals the personal sacrifices, bitter disputes and driving ambition that shaped these women's careers. Using secret diaries, unpublished letters, and the neglected service archives of our stately homes, Tessa Boase tells the extraordinary stories of five working women who ran some of Britain's most prominent households.
Dorothy Doar was Regency housekeeper for the obscenely wealthy first Duke and Duchess of Sutherland at Trentham Hall, Staffordshire. Sarah Wells, a deaf and elderly Victorian (mother to H.G. Wells), was in charge of Uppark, West Sussex. Ellen Penketh was Edwardian cook-housekeeper at the impecunious Erddig Hall in the Welsh borders. Hannah Mackenzie ran Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, Britain's first country-house war hospital. Grace Higgens was cook-housekeeper to the Bloomsbury set at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex for half a century.
Revelatory, gripping and unexpectedly poignant, The Housekeeper's Tale champions the invisible women behind the English country house.
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