Morality Among Servants – February 1917

It is natural that a “servant” should wish to protest against my statement that the standard of sexual morality in country service is deplorably low. But we all know it so well that evidence is superfluous. A good deal of it may be attributed to the conditions under which the youths and girls are thrown together.

To suggest that the mistresses are partly responsible in cases — the rare cases, according to the aggrieved correspondent — when a girl (and presumably a boy) misbehaves is too absurd for attention; and more absurd still is the suggestion that, when engaging a girl, she should “make it clear that she must conduct herself respectably.” Alas!

I could give a whole volume of evidence from my own personal experience, and another volume from the experience of farming friends. Two of the latest incidents of the kind in question occurred in my own family connection and are not only quite unprintable, but incredible if one did not know them to be true.

Twice have I spoken seriously to erring girls on the subject. Both were very good servants with no great fault but this. To my discomfiture, in the one case I found that the girl had no moral sense whatever. I might as well have tried to reason with an animal. I do not give her as typical; she was extreme — but a very fine servant and an amiable creature. The other girl I feebly attempted to expostulate with was also a treasure of a servant; but she gloried in her misconduct.

No disgrace whatever attached to it among her compeers; that is what I mean when I say that the “standard of morality is low.” Let no one rush in and accuse me of saying that all farm servants have loose morals. That is far from being true.

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