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)
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