Newport – No Job for a Girl

For our March meeting we had a most interesting survey of the role of Welsh women in domestic service in the inter-war years. Rosemary (Scadden) assembled her data by personally interviewing some twenty women volunteers who had worked in domestic service during the twenties and thirties.

We learnt how it was often the only opportunity for young girls to earn a living. Many had to leave home in search of such work- often in big cities and in particular in London. For a fourteen year old girl having to travel on her own to an unknown destination and employer it must have been a truly traumatic experience.

Of course, there were both good points and bad about the experience. At least the girls would have been provided with accommodation and food but the hours were long and the work very demanding. However, one of the worst aspects was homesickness and loneliness- particularly in small houses where she may have been the only servant. We heard how the girls might only have had one day off in perhaps a month but that, on this occasion, she would not be allowed to stay in the house but, regardless of the weather, would have to roam the streets of the city- without any real money in the pockets to spend on enjoyments. Apparently one popular place to visit on these occasions was Paddington Station as one could hear the accents and even Welsh language of the incoming passengers- perhaps helping with the homesickness.

 

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