A Maidservant's Lot
R.C. Richardson describes the fortunes of young women driven by poverty into domestic service in early modern England. A number fell victim to predatory masters and ended up with illegitimate children, only to be ejected form households into penury or, worse, executed for infanticide.
The life of a maidservant in early modern England was one fraught with perils, with young girls often prey to the advances of their lustful masters. In 1693 the London newspaper The Athenian Mercury carried the story of a manservant who, with his employer’s active encouragement, married a maidservant in the same household only to discover that she was already pregnant with the master’s child. The employer said he was grateful to have ‘such cracked ware [taken] off his hands’ and gave financial compensation to the couple. Most maids made pregnant by their employers were not so fortunate.