Marie Haggerty left the New Brunswick farm where her Irish family had settled to move to Boston. She didn't want to be a housemaid, so she took a job in a dressmaking shop, "but for two years all the mistress allowed me to do was baste, and I got tired of that, I could never raise my head up, look at anyone or talk without getting scolded." She then entered domestic service. Interviewed at 72 and still cleaning others' houses by the day, Marie Haggerty loved to sit and think of the time when she had worked for "quality."
It wasn't housework I did. I was a nursemaid or a second girl -- never just an ordinary girl out to service. My aunts and uncle were very glad to have me working for such nice people, real high-class people. I had a good home and I was treated good. Now if I had gone into a factory to work, the folks would have been worried. The girls in the shops never made over $6 or $7, and them that dressed so well on that, and paid their board, too, made people lift their eyebrows. I was lots better off. I got $7 or $8 a week, my room, and it was always a nice one, and the best food. I was really next thing to a lady's maid, for when the children went to bed, often the mistress would let me hook her dress, or brush her hair, and all the time she'd be talking to me just like I was her equal . . . .
My specialty was as a nurse girl.I took care of two lovely children. Do you know when the boy was married, he invited me to his wedding just like I was rich folks. They was an awful nice family, so refined and kind . . . .
I was living with those folks when I met Pa. He was the grocery salesman and come for orders three times a week. I can hear him even now, for he was a great whistler, and very jolly . . . He rode a horse and buggy, and they didn't deliver mail them days, so I would usually be on my way to the post office and he would drive me there and back . . . .
When Pa and I got married his uncle set him up in the grocery business in Cambridge and we got along swell. But he had a nervous breakdown from working too hard and the doctor said he had to change his business and go out in the country to live. We moved to Whitinsville and Pa went to work at the machine shop on the trucks and teams. I didn't like it there. Most of them people were just mill people.Pa knew I didn't like living with them so he got a job with the Electric Light Company, and we moved to Worchester. Then he got to be a foreman and we bought a house down in Millbury. We were happy there until Pa died. He didn't leave much money -- it wasn't his fault, though. We always tried to give the children the best and that took money.
Pa and I used to talk about what we hoped our children would be when they grew up. We always thought they were the best children -- I guess all fathers and mothers think that. We make them all finish high school. Pa and I didn't have much education but we wanted our children to so they could have a chance to become high-class people. We sent Kitty, my youngest daughter, to Normal School, because Pa always wanted one of his daughters to be a school teacher. I don't know why things never turn out the way you want them.
I didn't mind that there wasn't much left for me because I knew Pa meant well, but it left me depending on the children and they got their own troubles. The children are good but they're too busy to bother with me much. Pa never denied me a solitary thing when he was living, but now, if I didn't watch out for myself, nobody'd care what I had. Pa would turn over in his grave if he knew I went out washing and cleaning, but I have to. Of course, I don't go out working for just anybody. After all, I wasn't used to working for cheap people and I don't do it now. I have my special customers -- all real nice people. I don't mind going out to work -- I'm independent and that's something. But I won't be bowing to anybody . . . .
I never thought I'd have to work after I was married, and wouldn't have to, if Pa'd lived. Pa knowed I was used to better things, and he always tried hard to get them for me. Once he came home with a diamond ring for me. I knew he couldn't afford it, and I was afraid to wear it, thinking as how he might not have come by it honestly. I didn't want to question him, though. He might feel bad. I never wore the ring and not long ago, my daughter Marie had it set over for herself. Two or three years after Pa died, I found where the poor man had paid for it bit by bit. Poor Pa, he was a good man.