Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Influence of Servants
(From “The Reign of Gilt”)

By David Graham Phillips

(American novelist of radical sympathies, 1867–1911)
THERE is a woman in one of our big cities who is now a leader of fashion, very “classy” indeed, most glib on the subject of the “traditions of people of our station.” Her father was an excellent peddler, her mother a farmer’s daughter who could be induced to “help out” a neighbor in the rush of the harvest time. This typical American woman behaved very sensibly so long as her sensible father and mother were alive and until the craze for English households arose. She fell into line. But the haughty servants were most trying at first. For instance, she loved bread spread with molasses. She ate it before the butler once; his face told her what a hideous “break” she had made. She tried to conquer this low taste—never did weak woman fight harder against the gnawings of sinful appetite. At last she gave way, and in secret and in stealth indulged. She was not caught and, encouraged, she proceeded to add one low common habit to another until she was leading a double life. It had its terrors; it had its compensating joys. But before she had gone too far she was happily saved. One morning her maid caught her, and the whole household was agog. The miseries endured in the few following weeks completely cured her. She is now in private, as well as in public, as sound a snob as ever reveled in “exclusiveness.”  1

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