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Domestic servants Essay

1. What `ideals` were shared by masters and domestic servants?

One of the ideals shared by masters and domestic servants were that there was an understanding that a servant must be loyal to his/her master and in return they would get protection from their master. As most servants during this time were women who were working to support their families, there was also an understanding between the servants and masters that their masters were responsible for their daily necessities and health care as well. In return the servant ladies are expected to be at their utmost best behaviour in front of the masters guests and their family. This includes doing all the house chores as well as taking care of the masters children. This created a bond between the masters family and the servant whereby each other understood their place in society and the roles that they play in the society.

Apart from that, another ideal shared by the both parties is that whatever happens in a house is supposed to be a private event and not to be shared outside. The power of a household is only exercised by its master and the servant only follows his/hers orders without any say or arguement.The ability to choose between right and wrong lays only with the master and what he/she thinks is right. Thus, most of the sufferings underwent by the servants were kept as a dark secret in their lives.

Besides that, the servants and masters knew that the law does not protect the servants or rather gives them very little protection. Even the church only offered its services to the few chosen ones. Thus, the servants had only their masters and had to take whatever that was given to them without any arguements.  On the contrary, masters could have the laws reversed to their convenience.

Another ideal shared was that family was very important to both parties although the society was divided in an unfair manner. Thus, masters often try to ensure that most of the private conversations or habits in the house is not witnessed by their servants although its quite impossible especially when they are living with their masters; whereas the servants do not have such rights to privatize their lives.

2. Over what did they argue?

The masters often perceived that the streets were unsafe and threatening, thus they often avoid the streets. Contrastingly, the servants loved the streets as it enabled them to be away from all the pain and opression caused by their masters. Apart from that, servants had only the streets to mingle among themselves and share their problems and stories as they had no one else to talk and communicate with them. Although the streets may be a dangerous place for the servants, it was the only place that they felt free. As a result, the masters used to argue with their servants over this matter.

Apart from the above, masters viewed a home as something that was passed on from one geeneration to another, however the streets contained pople who did not have identities of themselves. Although  servants preferred to be out on the streets, their masters refrained them from doing so as they were afraid that the dirty and dangerous street will be brought in by their maids. The masters did not want to face the risk of taking servants that had diseases or that were dirty in their house taking care of their family. Thus, this brought about another conflict.

Although there were several disagreements and arguements over them, the servants and masters had to live with each other on a day to day basis. This made matters much worse as they had to do the same things on a daily basis and encountered many situations that connected them; as well as made them to grow apart.

Also during this time, Brazillian women underwent countless transformations with their lifes. There were many women who managed to come out of slavery and were worried that other people may come to know about that and ruin her reputation; there were middle class women who were frightened about the spread of syphilis and were being very cautious; and then there were wealthy women who tried to get pity out of other people. Thus, in this scenario it demonstrates how different women in different stages and classes of their lives could create a situation where they turn it into an arguement.

Although these women may come from different society classes, each of them felt that by making their personal matters public, they were able to make a distressing situation less  harmful and less painful for themselves.

3. How did these tensions help shape the urban landscape?

The daily tensions between the master and the servant as well as the daily routine lifestyle slowly allowed them to create a different kind of refined relationship whereby masters and servants started becoming somewhat closer and the gap between master and servant slowly eroded. Some masters who felt threatened by it  tried to stay being hard for a longer period of time, however, this too had to be let go. Thus, thru this master’s and servant’s found a way to be  at peace with each other.

Thus,  the servant women were strongly connected to the urban life style changes that happened around them as they were constantly engaging themselves with work and society. This also changed the city’s physical and social landscape between the 1860-1910. During the times when diseases were spreading in the early 1860’s, it made masters scared and they had thought that the servants were the carriers of this disease. Although the initial response was to create a government body to handle this disease situation, eventually this made them slowly let go off their slaves. This was due to the indoor plumbing that had no use of female servants and thus, this changed the work types and places for female servants. This situation also caused the government to demolish most slums in the city as to enhance the city’s image. This was an integral part in the history of slavery.

During the 1860’s, domestic work became lesser, thus this reduced the number of slaves needed drastically. As a result, the supply of female slaves were high. By 1872, two-thirds of women in Rio de Janeiro were free. The few women in 1872, were with “professional” jobs; which included roles as midwives, nuns, teachers, or those with a craft. During this time though, jobs in Law, medicine, and the public service were closed to women although there were more women in the field than men.

Although the abolition of slavery is not really understood, there were still concerns because slaves had to find other means of taking care of themselves and their families. Thus, most women felt like they betrayed and mistrusted by the masters. Thus, the above tensions shaped most of the urban landscape.


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