Domestic servants

Bridget Surdival: From Mayo to Brooklyn

When the White Star Line’s SS Germanic sailed out of Queenstown (now Cobh, Co. Cork), Ireland on 14 April 1898, there were many young Irish men and women aboard, including 19-year-old Bridget Surdival.  The ship was headed for the port of New York, and Bridget was going to join her older sister, Mary, who was living in Brooklyn.

SS_Germanic_c1890-1900 with caption

Bridget was born in 1876 in Balla, Co. Mayo, Ireland, to parents John Surdival and Bridget Reilly. She was the youngest sister of my great-grandfather Patrick Surdival (a.k.a. Patrick Sullivan). Although her name was registered as Biddy, she used the names Bridget, Beatrice, and Beattie.

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Domestic Service & The Girls' Friendly Society

Between 1919 and 1930, more than 120,000 female domestic servants arrived at Canadian ocean ports, and of those, nearly 75,000 were from the British Isles. My aunt, Florence Clarke, was one of them. She was a young woman of twenty-five when she disembarked, alone, at the port of Quebec on 30 July 1926. Like many women of her age, Flo had grown up in rural England and had made her way to the city, in her case, Liverpool, to seek work as a domestic servant. By the time she left England in 1926, Flo had been in domestic service for 12 years, having obtained a labour certificate to leave school at the age of 13.

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