«Dienstbotenbüchlein» [Small Book with Employers’ References] of the Maid Barbara Markut from Klosters (born 1812)

Lindau, 1839

The 27-year-old maid shared the fate of many young women of the rural lower class. Economic hardship forced them to serve in upper-class households in the city. To be a maid meant working in one of the least respected female professions.

Female domestic servants were badly paid and frequently also treated badly. Up until well into the 20th century their lawful protection was totally inadequate. Between employers and employees there was a huge power imbalance.

Besides, the compulsory «Dienstbüchlein» could be used as a means of pressure against maids: because only a flawless reference made further employments possible.