Step girls

Liverpool Mercury 1913

The Liverpool Step girl

A pathetic little worker, known to most housewives.

The young lady in question, she, who decorates the front doorsteps with red, yellow or white sandstone. Sometimes being of an artistic nature, she draws little swirly borders round her work, but such methods are not always encouraged by prosaic housewives, hence the decadence of the practice.

The majority of housewives know her well – in fact, too well, as you will find if you make inquires in the matter. She does not confine her work to steps, though they are the speciality, but will do odd jobs of any description.

An ordinary house receives about 3 to 4 calls every morning from different specimens of the lady, and 6 on a Saturday.

The step girl is the most saddening to any student of sociology, she represents a class so submerged and so antagonistic to the light, as to seem almost hopeless as regards to reform and progress. She has never had a chance, and ill-uses a chance when it comes up.

Be kind to her, and that inborn shrewdness of an ignoble mind, will at once mark you down as a fool.

Notice her skirt as ragged-ribbons and give her another garment, next morning she will shiver at your doorstep, in a well ventilated upper rag and declare, “it’s awful cold in this ‘ere blouse.”

If you send some delicacy to the baby, whose illness she harrowingly describes, she will be sure to discover an infant twin or cousin similarly affected.

Her footwear is always distressing, I don’t think I ever seen a step girl passably shod.

She has many contemporaries we take on a violent interest in each others work.

I witnessed a typical gathering of the toilers. Only one was toiling, or at least she had a bucket beside her and was dabbing a sloppy floor cloth around the railings, then drawing it gracefully over the step, leaving a design of the ocean currents in its wake.

The others – two watching, one mounted on the footscraper, the other mounting guard over the bucket.

“Where’s that Katie got to now?” asked the lady on the scraper, who had a cold in her head and no handkerchief.

“Oh, she’s at the rope factory – thinks no dirt of ‘erself now.” Said the water nymph, dabbing her fingers playfully in the dirty bucket, as she sat down on her heels for a rest.

“Then are you goin’ to do ‘er steps, Gladys.”

Gladys replied that she was going to clean the steps, “of that there woman down the street.”

“Which woman’s that!”

“You know, ‘Er what ‘as a card in the winder, ‘an comes to the door in a red blouse ‘an a pinny.”

“Go on with yer.” Said she on the scraper.

“I’ve got that job now, I done ‘em yesterday ‘an’ another thing, she ‘asn’t got the card in ‘er winder now – she’s let.”

“Wonder what sort the lodger is; she only takes in fellers.”

“I’ve seen ‘im, ‘e’s a nut. The Swank! ‘e ‘ad yeller gaiters and long ‘air, and one ‘o’ them fellers what drors for the papers, ‘ow d’ yer see ‘im.”

“Ow did I see ‘im1 ‘E came plantin ‘is big trotters on me clean steps ‘an near kicked me bucket over, ‘E wa’ a gent, though; ‘e trod on me finger, be ‘e begged me parding.”

“Oh, lor’, I can, see you getting’ off this season, Ask us won’t yer.”

“Oh shut up,” said the other, blushing.

“Just because a feller looks at me – ‘e didn’t mean nothink.”

“Don’t know about that,” said the designing Gladys, turning one of her eyes to the bucket, the other down the street.

“Er with the pinny, ‘ll be getting’ jealous. She’ll spill the water over yer one of these days – accidental, done on purpose like.”

“Will she” I’ll push ‘er nose into ‘er back ‘air. She’s skinny enough now. She only gave a penny for all them steps.”

“Is that all? Oh, yer can keep that job I wouldn’t do them under tuppence for no one. They’re all uneven too, ‘orrid to clean.”

The damsel had vacated the scraper by this time, the toiler her task completed, wrung out her cloth and fished out the scrubber.

Then she slithered to the side of the pavement, and flung the contents of the bucket down the gutter, giving a final graceful twist to remove the residue of sand.

She tip-toed up the side of the steps so as not to spoil her design, received payment and rejoined her companions.

They sauntered down the street discussing the girl who had left them to join the factory.


Copyright 2002 / To date