Housekeeper (domestic worker)

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A housekeeper is an individual responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the interior of a residence, including direction of subordinate maids. The term is almost exclusively applied to females; males are generally referred to as housecleaners, head of household staff, or, under the old British Imperial system as houseboys (regardless of age).[1]

Head housekeeper[edit]

In the great houses of yesteryear the housekeeper could be a woman of considerable power in the domestic arena. The housekeeper of times past had her room or rooms cleaned by junior staff, her meals prepared and laundry taken care of, and with the butler presided over dinner in the Servants' Hall. Unlike other servants, she was addressed as Mrs., regardless of marital status.

Today's head of household staff in a great house lives in much the same manner, although fewer households can afford large retinues of servants with an elaborate hierarchy. In some countries this is due to the minimum wage, however in places such as the United Kingdom the minimum wage does not apply to live-in staff.

The housekeeper is generally hired by and reports to the lady of the house. The extent to which the housekeeper supervises other staff varies from household to household. In general, the staff of a grand dwelling is divided into departments, with the housekeeper in charge of all the female staff with the possible exception of the kitchen staff, who report to the cook, and the between staff, who may report to the butler; in these cases the cook and butler reported directly to the lady of the house.

In other households, particularly those of the very wealthy who maintain several residences, the housekeeper is the ultimate head of household staff and may hire and fire junior staff, subject to the approval of the lady of the house, and make recommendations for senior staff. In this case, the cook and butler report to the lady of the house through the housekeeper.

Today's cook-housekeeper[edit]

In developed countries fewer families can afford live-in help as they once did. Fewer hereditary grand households exist due to the World Wars, though a considerable amount do exist in places such as the United Kingdom. Fewer families employ staff due to advances in technology and the lack of need due to social status.

In nations where there is still a ready supply of inexpensive labour the middle classes may still be able to afford servants. For these households, the remnant of the once grand position of head housekeeper is often a cook-housekeeper. The modern cook-housekeeper performs cooking and cleaning duties.

In countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France and European countries, there has been a rise in people employing domestic staff.

According to The Help Company with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco - housekeepers are a necessity for dual working households. The modern housekeeper of today will not only cook, clean, do errands, and help with the children, but will also act as the dog walker and personal assistant, house-sitter. The salary for housekeepers in major cities is anywhere from 15 to 35 an hour. In California, Hawaii and New York, domestic workers are required to take breaks, have lunch, and after 9 hours, get time and 1/2 for overtime. That is also true for live in domestic workers.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Georgina Tucker, Madelin Schneider (1998), The Professional Housekeeper, Wiley, ISBN 0471291935