What are some examples of social mobility among English servants?
April 9, 2015 2:41 PM   Subscribe

My understanding is that in 18th and 19th century England, most people born into the servant class remained as servants (or took other working class jobs). What examples are there of servants who rose above their station? The only one I can think of is Rosa Lewis, immortalised in "The Duchess of Duke Street".
posted by dontjumplarry to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Lady Emma Hamilton, born to a blacksmith, worked as a maid, ended up mistress of Nelson's and muse of Romney.
posted by b33j at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Joseph Paxton started out as a "garden boy", became head gardener at Chatsworth, redesigned the gardens, built huge fountains and massive glass conservatories including Crystal Palace, which housed a huge exhibition and got him knighted, published gardening magazines, became an MP. There's a great biography of him by Kate Colquhoun.
posted by severalbees at 3:03 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was writing about Emma Hamilton before seeing the earlier response but just wanted to add that she was not just a muse and mistress but very creative and innovative in her own right. Her attitudes changed contemporary understandings of classicism and neoclassicism, influenced artists such as Thorvaldsen and Vigée Le Brun, and generally caused a huge sensation.
posted by The Giant Rat of Sumatra at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Mary Ann Bullock was a dairymaid who in 1825 married Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh of Uppark House. Here are a couple of blog entries about it: The Dairy Maid and the Master of Uppark; Lady Mary Ann Fetherstonhaugh. Mary Ann left the house to her sister so both benefited from her marriage.

Also, not quite what you were asking, but HG Wells's mother was a housemaid and later housekeeper at Uppark. The house has a connexion with Emma Hamilton too as she was Sir Harry's mistress.
posted by paduasoy at 3:10 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not sure whether Janey Morris was ever a servant herself, but her mother was, and her father tended animals. She was a muse for the Pre-Raphaelites, married William Morris, loved DG Rossetti, and, when she died, she was the owner of Kelmscott Manor.
posted by monkeymonkey at 3:20 PM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: Class mobility has always existed, first through the merchant class and then the Industrial Revolution. George McCrae would be an example.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:26 PM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: Joseph Wright, though not technically a servant, was working in a Yorkshire quarry at the age of six; he later became Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford, wrote grammars of most of the Germanic languages, and created the monumental English Dialect Dictionary.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 6:12 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

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