Lady's companion

Lady's companion

A lady's companion was a woman of genteel birth who acted as a paid companion for women of rank or wealth. The term was in use in the United Kingdom from at least the 18th century to the mid 20th century. It was related to the position of lady-in-waiting, which by the 19th century was only applied to the female retainers of female members of the royal family. Ladies-in-waiting were usually women from the most privileged backgrounds who took the position for the prestige of associating with royalty, or for the enhanced marriage prospects available to those who spent time at court, but lady's companions usually took up their occupation because they needed to earn a living.

A lady's companion was not regarded as a servant. Only women from a class background similar to or only a little below that of their employer would be considered for the position. Women took positions as companions if they had no other means of support, as until the late 19th century there were very few other ways in which an upper or upper-middle class woman could earn a living which did not result in a complete loss of her class status. (Employment as a governess, running a private girls' school and writing were virtually the only other such options).

The companion's role was to spend her time with her employer, providing company and conversation, to help her to entertain guests and often to accompany her to social events. A companion received board and lodging and an allowance (which would never have been referred to as wages). She would not be expected to perform any domestic duties which her employer might not carry out herself, in other words little other than giving directions to servants, fancy sewing and pouring tea. Thus the role was not very different from that of an adult relation in respect of the lady of a household, except for the essential subservience resulting from financial dependency.

Lady's companions were employed because upper and middle class women spent most of their time at home. A lady's companion might be taken on by an unmarried woman living on her own, by a widow, or by an unmarried woman who was living with her father or another male relation but had lost her mother, and was too old to have a governess. In the latter case the companion would also act as a chaperone , for example at the time it would not have been socially acceptable for a young lady to receive male visitors without either a male relation or an older lady present (a female servant would not have sufficed).

The occupation of lady's companion is redundant in the United Kingdom and most other developed countries because on the one hand rich women are no longer based at home to anything like the same extent (and rich young women no longer have ever-present chaperones) and on the other hand because women have many other employment options.

Examples in fiction

*The unnamed narrator of "Rebecca" is a lady's companion as the novel begins.
*Miss Taylor, one of the first characters met in Jane Austen's novel "Emma", lives with the Woodhouses "less as a governess than a friend" to her grown-up charge.

ee also

*Lady-in-waiting
*Lady's maid
*Chaperon
*Cicisbeo


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Companion — may refer to: A friend or acquaintance you associate yourself with Companion (caregiving), a nurse assistant or similar professional who assists a patient one on one Companion (ship), an architectural feature of ships Companion animal, a pet… …   Wikipedia

  • Lady-in-waiting — For the 1976 album, see Lady in Waiting (album). For the 1957 novel, see Lady in Waiting (novel). Princess Marie Louise of Savoy was lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette of France. A lady in waiting …   Wikipedia

  • companion — noun 1) Harry and his companion Syn: associate, partner, escort, compatriot, confederate; friend, intimate, confidant, confidante, comrade; informal pal, chum, crony, sidekick, mate, buddy, amigo, compadre …   Thesaurus of popular words

  • Lady — n. (pl. ies) 1 a a woman regarded as being of superior social status or as having the refined manners associated with this (cf. GENTLEMAN). b (Lady) a title used by peeresses, female relatives of peers, the wives and widows of knights, etc. 2… …   Useful english dictionary

  • lady — n. (pl. ies) 1 a a woman regarded as being of superior social status or as having the refined manners associated with this (cf. GENTLEMAN). b (Lady) a title used by peeresses, female relatives of peers, the wives and widows of knights, etc. 2… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lady's maid — A lady s maid is a female personal attendant who waits on the lady of the house. The position is very similar to a gentleman s valet, who was the gentleman s version of the lady s maid and was (if the gentleman s personal assistant WAS female)… …   Wikipedia

  • Lady Hester Stanhope — Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope (March 12, 1776 June 23, 1839), the eldest child of Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope by his first wife Lady Hester Pitt, is remembered by history as an intrepid traveller in an age when women were discouraged from… …   Wikipedia

  • Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight — Written by Traditional Recorded by . Broadside Electric as False Sir John on Black edged Visiting Card Steeleye Span as The Elf Knight on Time Bellowhead as The Outlandish Knight on Burlesque Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight (Child #4; Roud #21) is …   Wikipedia

  • Lady Macbeth de Mtsensk (ópera) — Lady Macbeth del distrito de Mtsensk Леди Макбет Мценского уезда, Ledi Makbet Mtsenskogo Uyezda Dmitri Shostakóvich en 1942 Forma «tragedia satírica» Actos y escenas 4 actos, 9 escenas Idioma original …   Wikipedia Español

  • Lady Morgan — (Sydney Owenson) (ca. 1776 ndash; 14 April, 1859), was an Irish novelist.Early lifeShe was born in Dublin, the daughter of Robert Owenson, an Irish actor.CareerShe was one of the most vivid and hotly discussed literary figures of her generation.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”