Memorable housekeepers from some of history's great stories

Memorable housekeepers from some of history's great stories

Memorable housekeepers from some of history's great stories

The housekeeper has become a staple character in stories, particularly in classical literature and the sort of murder mysteries popularised by Agatha Christie, which often take place in grand houses where the domestic staff know a lot more than they initially let on.

Continuing our exploration of the portrayal of cleaning and cleaners in popular culture here on the Aurora blog, this week we look at some of the most memorable housekeepers in literature, starting with a character from a Christie story recently adapted by the BBC.

Kirsten Lindstrom, Ordeal by Innocence

Written in 1958, Ordeal by Innocence centres on the murder of Rachel Argyle, the adoptive mother of five children, all of whom could have had their own reason for killing her.

One of the key players in the story is the housekeeper Kirsten Lindstrom, who was played by Morven Christie in the 2018 BBC adaptation of the story. The TV mini-series hit the headlines when producers decided to change the identity of the killer. In the book, it is Kirsten who kills Rachel, but the screen adaptation decided to make someone else the culprit, although with Kirsten still central to the story.

Mrs Danvers, Rebecca

In Mrs Danvers, novelist Daphne du Maurier created one of the most terrifying housekeepers in literary history.

Mrs Danvers is the most memorable character in Du Maurier's 1938 novel Rebecca. The former maid to the deceased Rebecca de Winter, she is the housekeeper at Manderley, the estate owned by Maxim de Winter. When Mr De Winter marries again, Mrs Danvers - who appears to have been in love with Rebecca and remains obsessed with her memory - sets about tormenting his new wife, who narrates the story.

Judith Anderson gave a creepy performance as the disturbed housekeeper in Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 movie adaptation of Rebecca.

Mrs Macready, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

She may not have a big role in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but housekeeper Mrs Macready certainly plays a pivotal part in the story.

She looks after the countryside house owned by Professor Kirke, where the Pevensie children are sent after being evacuated from London during World War II. It is while running away from the somewhat cantankerous Mrs Macready that the children discover the wardrobe that will transport them to the magical land of Narnia, setting the entire plot in motion.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was adapted for the big screen in 2005, with New Zealand-born actress Elizabeth Hawthorne playing the role of Mrs Macready.

Mrs Grose, The Turn of the Screw

Housekeepers in literature don't always have to be grumpy, disturbed or mixed up in murder, as proven by Mrs Grose in Henry James' classic ghost story The Turn of the Screw.

Described as an "excellent woman", Mrs Grose is the main companion of the narrator, a woman who is employed as governess to two children in an isolated country house, where it soon transpires there are ghostly goings-on.

This story was also given the big-screen treatment in the 1961 horror classic The Innocents, with Megs Jenkins playing Mrs Grose.

Here at Aurora, we're confident that our professional cleaners can do just as good a job as any literary housekeeper when it comes to keeping your premises clean and orderly, especially with no ghosts, magical wardrobes or murderous plots to worry about.


Posted by Julie Tucker