The Diary of Delia (Part 1)

23 Feb. 1907
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The Diary of Delia (Part 1)


The Diary of Delia

Including Her Experiences in General Housework and Her Personal Reflections upon Certain Persons in High Places
Aroze at 7. Washed and dressed. Made me bed. I set the kittle on the gas stove and then furyissly rung the brekfust bell. The family begun to get up an our or so later. Mr. John was the first to ate. He guv a look side ways at the appytizing eggs befure him and the luvly staming coffee and thin wid a shuv pushed them away. He tuk up his paper and begun to reed, ignoaring me and the brekfust as if we was dirt.
“Wont you be after ating this marning?” ses I.
“Its all rite” ses he. “Its all rite Delia.”
I lingered, hoping to help him a bit. He russelled up the paper the way he has of doing whin provoaked and ses, in that cam and gintle way he talks when tarribly excited:
“Delia — what are you wayting for?”
“Nothing” ses I. “But wont you be ating a bite aven, Mr. Johnny.” He conthrolled himsilf wid diffyculty, his vyce all the cammer for his inwurd anger.
“Now me girl” ses he. “You attind to your own ating. Niver mind me.”
I shugged me sholders in the disdayneful way I have and walked kitchen-wurd. I jest reeched the dure when “Delia!” ses he, calling very perlitely now.
“Well sir?”
“Will you kindly bring me” ses he “a cup of hot water.”
“Hot water is it?”
“Yep. I’m dying, Delia” ses he.
“Dying!” ses I, shocked so that I drapped and broke the china in me hands.
“Confound you!” ses he, starting up. “‘Dy-et-ing’ I said.”
“Its the same thing,” I showted back at him, and I marched out in a huff. By and by, I hurd Miss Claire go into the dining-room, and I let her ring the table bell awhile befure ansering. Her payshunce getting the better of her sinse she pokes her hed into me kitchen. Now I happened to be standing neerby the dure, wayting for further ivints. Well, as I sed, out popped Miss Claire’s hed throo the dure which banged aginst me own, while me frying pan wint flying up on hers.
“O! O! O!” crys she. Her mother come running down the passage in her nitegown, her hair scrooded up in them kid curlers.
“What is the matter?” crys she. Thin she seen the cundition of her dorter. The eggs had landed on her hed, and the fat run down her face in streems with the yokes for company. The mother guv me a shove, and at that I boorst out in me rarth.
“Its no lady you are!” ses I. “The whole boonch of you is bad. Getting up at these unairthly ours and bullying the life out of a poor loan hard-working girl.”
Wid that I tuk aff me aprun and throwed it at the madam’s feet.
“Will you be good enuff” ses I “to pay me me wages, for I’m for going.”
“Delia” ses she in the voyce she spakes whin dressed up fine for the opery or theres company for dinner — “Delia” ses she, “your month is up on the 24th. You will get nothing till then.”
“Indade!” ses I. “Then I’ll set here till the 24th, but divil a bit of work will I be doing,” and, wid that, I set down on me chare and faulded me arms firmly across me brist.
“Delia,” ses the lady, “Mr. Wolley will want his chop in a minit. Master Willie will have fareena and a poched egg. Shredded weet biskits for Miss Claire —”
“Mummer,” ses Miss Claire, washing her hed over me tubs, “I want nothing—nothing.”
Just then Mr. James wint into the dyning-room and rung the bell lowdly.
“Peeches and pancakes” ses Mrs. Wolley coldly.
Miss Claire has her hed washed by this time, and she stands oop, wid it rolled in a towl. She guv me wan look—a cross betwane a shmile and a frown, and ses she:
“Delia, do you wish me to get brekfust today?”
“God forbid, Miss” ses I, and wint to wark.
Miss Claire is horty again, and she ses wid a cold look at me:
“Very well thin Delia, till the 24th then. Come mother.”
Next day. Its a weery world this is. Here I be, a pure, loansome female alone in this crool city working for foaks wid lether harts.
“O wirra, wirra, wirra!” as me auld mother used to say.
Next day. Aroze. Dressed. Washed.
I wint to see me frind Minnie Carnavan last nite and feel better the day. Ses she:
“Its a fool you be Delia O’Mally. The idear of you doing all the wark in a family of 6. Its no more sinse you same to have than an eediot, and you a craychure of 20 and past. Delia ses she, its the gurls that’s been here long that’s foolish like yursilf. They get stook wid wan famly who hangs on to thim for deer life. The new wans green from the auld country aren’t hiring out to do gineral housewark. Its cooking in a family of 1 or 2 they’re looking for and getting. Its lite chamberwark or waiting on a table or the like. There’s never a one so green as to hire out to do the hole wark of a family. Your auld fashuned and saft” ses she. “Go down to Mack’s on 3rd. Avenoo. Git a job for a munth or so as capper.”
“And what is that?”
“Well, you tak a job” ses Minnie, “but you dont kape it.”
“And what wud be the sinse of taking it for thin?”
“Why, you gump, for ivery place you tak Mack gits a fee of $3. You get harf for fooling thim.”
“Its an onest gurl I am,” ses I wid scorn, “and its ashamed I’d be to mix mesilf in any such mess as that.”
“Well then,” ses she, “go down to the Alluyunce. Its a place where they get jobs for the rich.”
“And what wud I be doing there?”
Dont you mind what I’m after maning? Its the rich ladies who pathronize them. Its a foine thing indade for thim. The Alluyunce fills oop there houses wid the sarvants. If a loidy walks in modest-like, asking swately for a gurl for gineral housewark, they take the fee of $2 or $3 or maybe $5, and thin smilingly infarm her that gineral housewarkers are an oonown quolity. ‘Tak a cook’ ses Miss Flimflam, seeted at a desk. ‘But’ ses the lady, luking very thrubbled, ‘a cook wont do anny other work at all.’
‘Sumtimes they do lite londry wark,’ ses Miss Flimflam, yoning perlitely in her hand.
‘Will they clane?’
‘Land, no!’
‘Wate on table?’
‘Certainly not.’
‘Thin’ ses the lady in disthress, ‘what am I to be doing? I moost have me wark dun.’
‘Why’ ses the clerk, a little more awake, ‘hire other girls, as the rist of our pathrons do.’
‘Oh’ ses the lady, ‘I suppose’ ses she after a moment of thrubbled thort, ‘if I get an exthra woman in to clane and wate on table, the cook will wark cheeper?’
‘Hm?’ ses the lady at the disk. ‘I big yure pardin?’
‘She’d wark cheeper, I sed.’
‘Well, to be frank, Mrs. Hodge Podge’ answers Miss Flimflam at the desk, ‘a cook’s an expinsive proppysition in these days. Now, we have thim all the way down from $200 a munth to —er —well, you mite git an inexperienced beginnir for about $30, tho I cant promise.’
“Your fooling, Minnie. Shure no cook gits such a forchune,” ses I.
“Its thruth I’m telling you. Why, I heard the uther day that Mrs. Vanderfool do be paying her cook $20,000 a year, and, what’s more, the papers state theres an agytation now on foot among the bizzy club wimmin to let the puir hard-warking girls, who’ve been impoased upon, yuse the parlor wance a week to see there company in.”
“You dont say!” ses I, “and to think of me droodging for the starving wage of $20 per month!”
“Well,” ses Minnie, “I wont misguide you, Delia. That is the wages of a green girl who niver saw a Frinch pertater fryed on airth and who broils a stake in a sorspan cuvered snug wid water.”
The 24th. I aroze at the ushil our. Washed. Dressed in me best. Miss Claire cum into me room brite and airly. Ses she: “O Delia, here’s that auld green skurt of mine you always liked. Your welcame to it.”
“Thanks,” ses I, “but I expect to be making sooch grand wages soon, Miss Claire, I’ll be bying finer skurts than that.” Wid that I pushed the skurt aside wid contimp. She got all red and pretty, as she has a habit whin angry, and she put up her hed hi in the air.
“O well, if that’s the way you feel!” ses she, and marched out.
Mr. John cum into me kitchen.
“Delia,” ses he “heres a quarter. Now hussle wid me brekfust, will you?”
I took the quarter and flipped it round.
“Mr. Johnny,” ses I, “me munth is oop at 7 A.M. this marning. I’m after waiting for me wages.”
He drew up his brows frowning, and wint aff into his mother’s room. A moment later the auld gintleman himsilf cum bloostering out. Its his ushil custom to get up at 10.
“What’s up? What’s up ?” ses he. “Where’s me chop? Where’s me chop?”
Master Willie started in to ball, and Mr. James kept ringing the table bell. Sooch a house I niver seen. Out came the madame in her ushil nitegown.
“Delia,” ses she, “didn’t I tell you yesterday I’d decided to guv you anuther chance?”
“You did mam, but Im for going now,” ses I.
“Go about your wark,” see she, her proud voice becoming a bit narvous in toan.
“Im waiting for me wages, mam,” ses I.
“Delia —” she guv a hasty look about her, thin she spakes in a coaxing vyce:
“Now, Delia, be sinsible. You no we think warlds of you. Now —”
Joost then, Miss Claire looks in, her face still red wid the snub I’m after giving her about the skurt.
“Muther,” ses she, “dont descind to begging Delia to remane. Let her go. We can get on famissly widout her.”
“What!” shouts Mr. James, sticking in his hed at the dure. “No cook! What’s to becum of us? Are we,” ses he, “to go throo a like nitemare sooch as we injured befure the advint of Delia?” Willie now cum poaking his hed in between his daddy’s legs.
“Pleese, Delia,” ses he, “guv me my fareena. I loves you, Delia,” ses he.
“God love the lamb!” ses I and fleew to the stove, me hart going out of me body to the child.
“Hold!” ses Miss Claire, very loftily, and she cum over to me and tuk the dubble boyler out of me hand. “Put on yure things,” ses she, “and go. At once,” ses she, “at once!”
Then she turned to her brothers and parents.
“Go back to the dining-room,” ses she. I’ll get brekfust today.”
Mr. James guv a dredful groan, and sloonk off to the dining-room, wid his hands on his stummick.
“Mamma,” ses Miss Claire, “pay off Delia. Youve been composed upon long enuff” ses she. “Hereafter I’ll manage things.”
And me, the last of 1700 girls in the same place—for so I larned from me frind the janitor’s wife—walked out wid me $20 in me pocket.
The following day at Minnie Carnavan’s house. Aroze at 8:30. Washed—all over. Dressed in me best. Borrowed Minnie’s hat wid the grand white ostrich fether. Minnie wint along wid me to the Alluyunce. “For,” ses she, “its saft you are, mavorneen.”
After paying our fee of $1 we set around thegether wid meybe 40 uther unforchnut girls in a room on the sicond flure. “Now, raymimber,” ses Minnie, “no gineral housewark for you. It’s a grand cook you be, or a foine first class waitress, or a grand chambermade, or a nurse to a babby, oonderstanding all about bottle feeding. Now, raymimber what you are.”
“I begin to have misdouts, Minnie,” ses I, trimbling inwardly.
“Ah, go wan,” ses Minnie, wid contimp, and, joost thin, wan of the Miss Flimflams (for so Minnie has them all named) cum into the room and ses in a loud voyce:
“A nurse! I’ve a call here for a nurse. Must be first class. Consumtive. Wages $10 a week.”
“Tak it!” wispers Minnie, excitedly, and she pushed me along.
“Are yu a nurse?” arsks Miss Flimflam, looking at me misdoutfully.
“Well, mam,” ses I, “It’s manny a yung wan—”
“O deer!” ses she impayshuntly, “a trayned nurse is what I want. Are there any trayned nurses here?”
There wint a little pockmarked woman forward.
“What have you dun?” arsks Miss Flimflam.
“Well, deerie,” ses the pockmarked lady, “I’ve tinded to invaleeds since i was so high, deerie.”
“O!” ses Miss Flimflam, and wint out larfing.
She’d been gone but a minit whin a stout Miss Flimflam cums in in a hurry. She reeds frum a paper in her hand:
“2 lady’s maids, bootler, 3 chambermades—cook—in fack all nicessary sarvants for a big coontry place. Now, first of all—a thoruly first class cook—er —”
Minnie had pushed me forward and I wint up bashfully befure her.
“Cum along,” ses she, and she tuk me down stares into a grate long room, wid about twinty or thirty ladies sitting in grand drisses on sofies. She leeds me up to a stout old yung lady sitting farward on the idge of wan of the sofies.
“This,” ses Miss Flimflam in the swatest voyce, “is Mrs. Regal. Tell her all about yersilf, Delia.”
The lady set a bit further farward and lifted up wan of thim spicticles on top of a reel gold shtick called in Frinch Lorgons.
“How old are you?” ses she.
“Twinty” ses I.
“— five” puts in Minnie quickly, for she’d cum down wid me.
“Ah, 25! How minny yeers have you cooked?”
“Well mam —,” i began, whin Minnie put in: “Tin years.”
“What wages did you get at your last place?”
“Twinty—” I began.
“Twinty a week,” ses Minnie boldly.
The lady looked tarribly startled. “Hoo did you wark for? Lit me see your riferinces,” ses she.
Minnie hands her the boonch of papers she’s after bringing along for me, and the lady looks at them throo her lorgon. Me own riferince from Mrs. Wolley, which Miss Claire handed me proudly as I was stipping out, I also had handed to the lady, and I’m all oopset and red wid anger at the pinch on me arm Minnie is after giving me. The lady looks up wid her eyes shnapping.
“Why, these riferinces are for 2 differunt girls,” ses she.
“Luk at that, wud yer?” ses Minnie, playfully. “Now, didn’t she be after giving you my riferinces, too, by mishtake? This is mine,” ses she, and tuk me letter from Mrs. Wolley frum the lady’s hand.
“Hoom!” ses the lady, and looks me over from hed to feet throo her lorgon.
“What’s your name?” ses she, and refers to the letters.
“Delia,” ses I innercently, “Miss Delia O’Malley, if you plaze, mam.”
She set up stiff. Then she got up and putrified me wid a horty stare. Then she swipt over to Miss Flimflam, her silk pitticoat swishing behind her wid anger. Miss 5 Flimflam cum over to me and grabbed me by the arm. She pushed me tord the stair.
“Minnie,” ses I upstares, “its seeries thrubble youve got me into now.”
“Shaw!” ses Minnie. “Its dun ivery day. They kno it. Delia, there’s twinty ladies for ivery wan girl. Your safe from anny blacklist, darlint.”
We seen Miss Flimflam cuming in at the dure, and me gilty hart misgiving me, I grabbed Minnie by the arm and we wint out of wan dure as Miss Flimflam wint in by anuther.
“Delia, its a gump you are” ses Minnie wid scorn, “but never mind, ye’ve dun enuff for today. We’ll be back tomorrow.”
Following day. Awoke. Aroze again at 8:30. Dressed. Washed.
Minnie and I interfiewed the follering ladies in regard to a position.
Mrs. Spunk. Offered me $20 for cooking—2 in family. Wages were too small. I refused it wid contimpt.
Mrs. Drool. $25 cook and londress. Minnie told her londry work wud spyle me hands.
Mrs. Lambkin—8 in family—Cooking, $30. Minnie sed Id be after waring the souls of me feet off rooning oop and down for the 8.
Mrs. Colebin: $30. Cooking and waiting on table. Minnie sed no cook cud be expicted to wate on table orlso. Me arms wud be after aking wid passing the hivvy dishes around.
Two weeks later. I wint to the Alluyunce today for the first time alone. Minnie sed she was worn out wid kaping me frum accipting the woorthliss places offered by the pathrons of the Alluyunce. “Ye shud have enuff spunk yersilf by now,” ses she. “Dont be saft. Raymimber ladies is your natrel inimies and bastes of prey on puir hilpless sarvant girls.”
Miss Flimflam spyed me as soon as I intered, and tuk me by the arm just as I was going to the room upstares.
“Im glad” ses she corjully, “youve cum alone. Your frind was a inkubust” ses she. “Now, cum rite along wid me. Theres a swate little lady wants a girl just like you,” ses she, “and she’s willing to pay you well and treet you,” ses she, shmiling, “like a lady.”
Wid that she leeds me acrost the room to wan of the sofies, and pushes out wid her foot wan of thim camp stules for the girls to set upon.
“Good marning, mam” ses I, lifting up me eyes modestly, and then I give sooch a joomp the dumed stool dubbles up under me and down I cum wid a boomp on the flure. For there, sitting looking at me, very much surprysed and horty, is Miss Claire hersilf. She smiled a bit whin I picked mesilf up, and ses I:
“Why, miss, the site of your pretty face just about flabbergasted me. How are you?” ses I.
“Quite well, thank you” ses she, very stiffly.
“And your mother?”
“—er —mother is pretty well” ses she.
“Your father?”
“Papa is—er —about the same” ses she.
“Mr. Johnny?”
“Still dy-et-ing, Delia.”
“And Mr. James —”
“James—well, Delia, nun of us are very well. James ses he has interjecshun.”
“And what is that?” I inquires cooryissly.
“—er—a sort of pane in the —er—stummick” ses she.
“Is it billy-ake youre meening?”
She blushes, and ses, “I suppose so.”
“Who do be doing the cooking?” I arsks.
“Well—er—I tried. Delia, dont you dare to larf” ses she indigantly.
“Larf!” ses I, “Why, Lor bless your hart, darlint, I’d more likely be weeping for the unhappy family.”
She leened tords me, wid her horchure quite gone, and, looking as meek and swate as a kitten in thrubble, “Delia,” ses she, “lve had elivin girls in since you left” ses she.
“You puir lamb!”
She puts on that weedling voyce she has whin bothering me to let her make mussy foodge in me frying pans: “Delia,” ses she, “w-wudnt you like to cum back?”
I shuk me hed. Then she set back, her horchure cuming back agin.
“O well,” ses she, “there’s hundreds of uther girls.”
“Yes,” ses I “the same as the elivin youve had.”
“Delia” ses she wid pashion, “for pity sake do come back. I did thry to do my best, but its like attimting to plase a family of porkypines since you left and O! those awful craychures that came after you left. Why, wan of thim,” ses she indigantly “was want to tak the soyled table linen—aven the lace doylies—for dish cloths.”
“O Miss Claire” ses I “you dont meen them buties you made yersilf?”
“Yes, indade,” ses she, turning her face away.
“Miss Claire-” ses I.
“Yes, Delia” ses she quickly, turning round in a bounce.
“Nothing” ses I, angry wid mesilf for me weekness.
Delia,” ses she despritly, “we’ve tuk a place in the cuntry. We must have a girl. Its dredful to think of being widout one. Oh, Delia! do please cum wid us.”
“No-o—Miss——,” ses I a bit tremendulussly.
“I’ll—I’ll—give you that old—er—its not relly old—black taffita jacket of mine,” ses she.
I shuk me hed.
“—and the skurt wid the box plates,” ses she, “and you can have that tucked shemysett,—you no, the one you do up so luvly.”
“No, Miss Claire,” ses I firmly, getting up. “I’m for uther wark than gineral housewark.” She got up also.
“Very well, Delia,” ses she. “Its hard on me—so much trubble—.” Thin her blue eyes run over, and she walked away, wiping thim wid her hankychiff. I seen her go out the dure. I filt a sinking at me hart. Minnie Carnavan was forgotten, and, like the eediot she ses I am, I made a grand dash fur the dure, wid all the Miss Flimflams of the Alluyunce and the ladies thimsilves gaping after me in horrow. I seen Miss Claire half a block away, and I run after her puffing:
“Miss Claire! Darlint! Miss Claire!” I called after her. She turned about, and guv me wan look. Then she made a dash. Her parrysol flew out of her hand.
“Oh, Delia—you duck! ses she, and kissed me wid a smack, hugging and squazing me manewile.
There cum thray yung doods marchin’ down the Avenoo, and, as Miss Claire taks me in her arms, the bauld yung chaps stud still and looked at us and shmiled. Thin one bint down and keerfully picked up the parrysol and wiped it wid the slave of his foine gray coat. As me and Miss Claire extrycate ourselves he offers it to her wid a bow. She toorned red as a peeney and her bloo eyes guv one luk up at the dood, then drapped demoorly.
“Thanks” ses she. “Thanks agin” ses she, as he likewise returns her rist bag. He lifted up his hat, waited a bit for more thanks, and thin marched aff, shmiling like his face wud bust. She smiles too, and ses I, boorsting:
“Its a roomance, Miss Claire! Be all the saints in Hivin and airth, ye’ve luked into the eyes of your hoosband.”
“Nonsense” ses she, laffing, “you’re the same old silly, sintimintal Delia. Cum home, deer.”


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People Mentioned

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonym used in this text

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and a Developer at Simon Fraser University’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL). He is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in Indigenous and diasporic literature, science and technology studies, and the digital humanities.