Story: Household services

‘Servant-galism’ cartoon

‘Servant-galism’ cartoon

Cartoonists liked to lampoon New Zealand servants for their self-confidence and familiarity. This came from the fact that they were in such demand that they could at least try to set their own terms, and from the egalitarian nature of society in New Zealand compared with Britain. This 1868 cartoon typically plays up the servant’s working-class accent and vocabulary.

The National Council of Women, in their 1900 annual report, paints a less egalitarian picture: ‘The servant … looked down upon with gentle contempt by her employers, and frequently spoken of as “the slavey” and “our Biddy”; and even where the elders are more outwardly considerate, the children … – with the brutal candour of their age – soon make the girl understand that they consider her of an inferior and altogether lower order of flesh and blood than themselves.’ (pp. 63–64)

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: J-065-001

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.

All images & media in this story

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