Friday, August 17, 2012

Rose: My Life in Service

by Rosina Harrison
New York : Viking Press, 1975.

Rosina (Rose) Harrison was born in 1899, in a time and class where she was expected to go into service. She determined early on to be a ladies' maid in order to travel, eventually working for Nancy, Lady Astor, for over 30 years.

This is my second memoir of life in service, which serves the dual purpose of teaching me a bit about how some of my English ancestors may have lived, and showing me more of the "downstairs" aspect of Downton Abbey. This title in particular was also mentioned in the "Further Reading" section of The World of Downton Abbey.

This was an interesting contrast to the first book I'd read about a life in service, Below Stairs, which I read about a month prior this title. Rose, unlike Margaret Powell, calls herself a "career woman," and unlike many of her time, decides that she wants her profession over marriage. Though Lady Astor is headstrong and difficult, Rose is a match for her and loves her, too. Rose takes great pride in her work, and seems happy and content; she doesn't overlook disparity, but doesn't seem to think that she's owed anything either. Her anecdotes are often eye-opening or funny. I learned a lot and enjoyed myself along the way.

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