Story: Household services

Do-it-yourself washing

Do-it-yourself washing

Because they could not get servants, many of New Zealand’s female settlers had to do their own housework – like Sophie Bambridge, depicted here in her mid-20s. Her husband William didn’t like her doing so much housework, as he recorded in a note written to accompany this line drawing: ‘The next sketch represents a little contrivance by my good wife for the convenience of washing. Would that she did not consider herself compelled to exert and weary her body at not only the wash tub but many other things.’

If Sophie’s circumstances were like most would-be ‘mistresses’ in the 1840s, she would not have been able to find reliable help at a reasonable price, as there were simply not enough servants available.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: MS-0131-106
Sepia and ink wash by William Bambridge

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Jane Tolerton, 'Household services - The ‘servant problem’', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 27 September 2021)

Story by Jane Tolerton, published 11 Mar 2010