The Housekeeper's Tale - The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House
Author: Tessa Boase
Publisher: Aurum Press
Release Date: August 12, 2014
The story of The Housekeeper’s Tale follows the lives of five women to delve into the secret existence of these powerful yet invisible women who ran our great English country houses.
From the 19th- to the mid 20th-century this was the most important professional job an uneducated woman could aspire to; the female equivalent of the butler. But we know very little about the women who filled these posts.
In the fictional view, the housekeeper was invariably a spinster in black silk: cold, remote and calculating. But what of the real lives? Tessa Boase turns domestic detective to take the reader on a journey of investigation, unearthing secret diaries, bundles of letters and neglected archives from the service wings of great houses – the housekeeping accounts, the doctor’s bills, the shopping lists, the character references.
Mrs Doar, Mrs Wells, Mrs Penketh, Mrs Mackenzie and Mrs Higgens are forgotten women, but each had an intriguing personal story. Through meticulous research and imaginative reconstruction, their tales are told here for the first time. There is a pregnancy, a court case, a love affair, a scandal. These were real women, with real problems. But they were also determined, ambitious and single-minded. Whatever their era – Victorian, Edwardian, the roaring Twenties, the liberated Sixties – without these women the world’s that they kept in order would have stopped spinning altogether.