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Household servants in the city of Zagreb 1880-1914


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Horvat, Katarina. (2018). Household servants in the city of Zagreb 1880-1914. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of History.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij moderne i suvremene hrvatske povijesti u europskom i svjetskom kontekstu) [mentor Iveljić, Iskra].

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Household servants in Zagreb were relatively numerous. In 1880 almost 9% of inhabitans belonged to this category, and almost 6% in 1910. Household (domestic) servants were a special group of employed persons, different from other workers, because of their special living and working conditions. The aim of this paper is to contribute to the research of social history and history of Zagreb in the period between 1880 and 1914 through the study of the position of domestic servants. The introductory section discusses recent research results of this topic and gives an overview of the sources and literature used for this paper. According to available research, the history of household servants and their position in the social structure of the population of Zagreb has not been explored thoroughly by Croatian historiography. In contrast, a lot of research on domestic servants has already been done on European and world level. The second chapter gives an overview of economic and social changes in Europe and Croatia and Slavonia at the end of the 19th century. This era was marked by the processes of modernization initiated by industrialization followed by urbanization and migration – inland and overseas. Modernization would lead to transformations in all areas of social life. More backward European countries, including Croatia and Slavonia have been involved in the industrialization in the last three or four decades of the 19th century. Croatia and Slavonia remained the dominant agrarian country in this period, with the population mostly engaged in agriculture. The share of household servants in its total population remained very small. The service in households has been frequent in great parts of Europe and has often served young people to get the means to live. Among them, there were a lot of women from the villages who sought their jobs in the cities. In the 19th century the service became mainly a matter of women from lower classes. With the opening of new employment opportunities induced by industrialization, employment in households lost its importance. Ther third chapter describes Zagreb at the turn of the century. It was a period of fast economic and social development of Zagreb, the city with the largest number of household servants from all cities in Croatia and Slavonia. Its share of household servants is closer to those of big European cities, and different from a very small share of household servants in the population of Croatia and Slavonia. The fourth chapter is about legal regulations concerning household servants. From the mid 19th century until the Second World War, servant-master relations in Zagreb were ruled by Rules for servants in cities. This law was generally focused on the supervision and control of the servants, which was to be achieved by a large number of provisions that controlled their behaviour in service and private life. Already in the late 19th century it was said that it was out of date and that a new one was needed. The fifth chapter deals with the categorization of servants. The group of household servants included more different categories of servants, depending on which job they were specialised for. The most common were maids of all work. Sources also often mention cooks and chambermaids, charwomen etc. Male servants were household servants, coachmen, gardeners etc. Household servants were mainly young people, predominantly women, as we see can see in the sixth chapter. Most of the servants did not originate from Zagreb but from other parts of Croatia and Slavonia, and also from other parts of the Habsburg Monarchy and beyond. The share of Slovenians among the servants is very noticeable. Due to the lack of trained domestic staff with special skills and knowledge, the foreign servants were asked for. The staff from the developed areas brought new skills and knowledge. The seventh chapter deals with the labor market conditions. The employment of servants was possible, except through oral information, and through private bureaus, and, since 1907, the City Employment Office. For a part of the public, and official bodies, employment bureaus were places that posed a potential threat, especially for female servants. Since their frequent service changing possibilities, they did not contribute to the stability of the servant sector. Negative attitude towards private bureaus was one of the reasons why the City Employment Office was established. The offer of servants in the City Employment Office was not much greater than the demand, suggesting that demand for the servants was really great. The problem of unemployed servants has been emphasized several times by the city administration, and in Zagreb, it really was a problem. The eighth chapter deals with social problems. Unemployed servants and maids (as well as other unemployed people) somethimes engaged in vagrancy, theft and covert prostitution, with which Zagreb police had their hands full. Secret prostitution was also present in restaurants, inns etc. where female servants also worked. In addition to sexually transmitted diseases, the risk for prostitutes was also in the possibility of giving birth to extramarital children who could become the city's financial obligation. Part of the female servants worked in brothels as registered prostitutes. A proportion of servants really engaged in prostitution, is difficult to estimate from reviewed sources. The fact that the City Municipality and the police had special records for unemployed servants and the ones that often changed service means that their number was probably not so small and that they posed a problem. Theft was a common crime in the entire population of Croatia and Slavonia. Participating of servants in theft could be due to the knowledge of the position of home valuables, but also due to high poverty (especially with the unemployed). Hospital treatment for servants was a rather an important topic in society, primarily for collecting hospital expenses. Master was obliged to pay the cost of treatment for the servant, up to four weeks (and longer if the illness was caused by master's fault). However, the law also said that a servant or maid might have been dismissed from the service if incapable of performing his or her duties, giving the master the possibility of firing servants because of illness. Masters were not obliged to care for an aging servant or the pregnant maid. In such cases the servants were often left to themselves. The issue of the maids' extramarital children as well as of other poor mothers, presented a special socio-health problem in this period. At the beginning of the 20th century there were changes in the health law as well as the establishment of new institutions aimed at the health care of children and infants, such as the Pediatric Department and the City children's ambulatory. Protection of female servants in Zagreb before 1914 was carried out by women's charity associations, whose members were often the wealthier and more educated women, who focused on humanitarian work through the protection and education of the poorer classes. An important factor in these associations were female teachers. The ninth chapter is about female education and the education of servants. Throughout the observed period, there were demands for better education for (especially rural) women for work in the household on one hand and for skilled servants and other household personnel on the other. Educated and professional servants, as well as other educated household personnel, were a rarity for which there was a great demand. Girls from middle and upper classes who were more educated did not go to service in private households unless they were necessary, while the poor urban and rural girls who went to service were most often poorly educated. Special education for the work in the household came into existence at the end of the observed period and until World War I it did not succeed in meeting the needs for more professional household staff. The tenth chapter is about everyday life. The work of the houseservants lasted for almost the entire day except during the night rest. Working hours were not regulated and the free exit was mostly on holidays and Sunday afternoons. Characteristics of the service could be loneliness and vulnerability to exploitation and abuse. All this depended on the relationships that servants developed with the masters. The private life of servants is the subject of the eleventh chapter. During the service, domestic servants were mostly unmarried. There were examples of married servants and living with their spouses, but they were not so common. For now, based on a large number of their illegitimate children, I suspect that a large number of maids stayed out of wedlock. The reasons for the complicated entry into marriage lay partly in the bad material position. Also, the way of the life of a servant under the master s supervision could have been such that it did not provide enough room for personal contacts. On the other hand, if life was marked by frequent changes of service, long-term unemployment, and thus life without supervision, this could have been linked to greater engagement in relationships with men. Sources often mention the emotional life of a servant as a reason for a large number of extramarital children - they were lonely and sought closeness that led to easier relationships with men. The servant-master relationships are discussed in the twelve chapter. The service provided the opportunity for learning and progress and was a link between higher and lower classes. Since living under the same roof, the quality of the servant-master relationships was very important. Some of the relationships were close, but there were also quarreling, running out of service, even fights. Every-day close contacts often led to the servant being familiar with confidential information about the family he / she served. Some female domestic servants were victims of assault by their employer. The picture of an ideal servant, as declared in good behavior manuals, demanded a patriarchal family relationship which, in many relationships of Zagreb's servants and their masters, was not achieved in a satisfactory manner. The space and emotional distance between master and servant was becoming greater. The servant was no longer looked at as a person, let alone a member of the family, but only the (inferior) workforce. The distance was also favored by servants greater mobility and easier service change, as well as increasing demands addressed to masters. Propagated patriarchal relations prescribed by the law were in fact adapted to past times and burdened the relationships of servants and masters. 'The servant problem' in Zagreb meant a shortage of valid maids and servants (the kind masters wanted) and the dissatisfaction with the existing offer on the servant labour market. The share of household servants in Zagreb reduced in period 1880-1910 since new opportunities for employment opened up in factories and other occupations. They opened for men, but more importantly for women, who made most of the household servants. Still, the offer of servants was still greater than the demand. Control over the entire work and free time of household servants, which masters could demand, has led many of servants to seek employment in other occupations, which gave them more personal freedom. The conclusion gives an overview of the position of a home servant in relation to the aforementioned aspects of life and the development of a society, seen from the way of responding to the problems in which household servants were involved. In this period, the development of the society, although marked by patriarchalism, moved towards increasing tolerance, women's emancipation and social efforts (the development of social welfare).

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Zagreb, household (domestic) servants, master-servant relationships, social problems
Subjects: History
Departments: Department of History
Supervisor: Iveljić, Iskra
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij moderne i suvremene hrvatske povijesti u europskom i svjetskom kontekstu
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2019 13:00
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2019 13:00

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