What is a good word for "women who would do things for the men they weren’t married to"

Bramandin

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But wherever there are men who are away from the regular society of women, who get.... you know... urges of the sort which only a woman possessed of a range of specifically female skills can satisfy, Sandra Battye will not be short of a living. For men with the urge and the powerful longing, say for a shirt with all its buttons on, or socks with working heels and no holes in the toes.

I have a society where a man who is good at mending his own clothes is mocked. I haven't figured out what else is women's work, though it is socially acceptable for a man to take care of his child if his wife died. I don't plan to outright say that they'll do everything a wife would do for her husband, but they do everything.
 

Bramandin

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Mum’s the word?

Mum as in Mummy, or mum as in mumble?

Actually, you got me thinking about building a cult much like the Shakers so I can call the unmarried women nuns. Or I do have a culture on the other continent where men and women live separately and only interact to trade goods and procreate; they're based on the warrior-caste elves who discourage heterosexuality, so a pocket might exist on the story's continent.

As an aside, I don't want to call them spinsters but I am open to the idea of calling them seamstresses because repairing clothing is their main function. That culture doesn't make their own thread.
 

Bramandin

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A maid or housemaid?

Maid might work. I was going to go for chatelain; I didn't realize last time I gave a character that title that it could be euphemistic. I keep forgetting and re-realizing that seamstress could imply that sewing is all they do. Cooking is done centrally, only the administrators can read... it's not shameful for a bachelor to clean his own stuff or fetch his own water, but he might be tired enough to trade a ration-cake to have it done.
 

Bramandin

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Most women would say a man who can mend his own clothes and generally look after himself is quite desirable.

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The culture in my story is very misogynistic. Very few women have a say in who gets to marry them.
 

Montero

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Well. Hhm. No society is uniform and even in times where we now think of all sewing as women's work, there were plenty of men sewing as a profession (tailors) and as a hobby - common amongst sailors, and yes there was also the profession of sail making and sail mending. "The gender divide" has never been clear cut - if you go look at some of the threads in the history area there are discussions of femme seule for example, and how in blacksmithing the wife of the blacksmith would help a lot - casting arrow heads for the lord of the manor for example - and if she became a widow she might trade as femme seule.

Secondly, speaking as a re-enactor who has studied some social and economic history, why would your culture not make their own thread? Doesn't make economic sense to me. The books I like the best are where I find the worldbuilding not just interesting, but I can believe it is functional.
 

.matthew.

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Secondly, speaking as a re-enactor who has studied some social and economic history, why would your culture not make their own thread? Doesn't make economic sense to me. The books I like the best are where I find the worldbuilding not just interesting, but I can believe it is functional.
To me, this could make sense if you're talking long distances between realms, where the thread material (like hemp or silk) was only available in the other location, and local types of thread were drastically inferior.
 

Bramandin

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Secondly, speaking as a re-enactor who has studied some social and economic history, why would your culture not make their own thread? Doesn't make economic sense to me. The books I like the best are where I find the worldbuilding not just interesting, but I can believe it is functional.

@.matthew. has it almost-right. Blackrock is the entire town holed up in a coal mine because of a not-zombie apocalypse and while they can grow potatoes and mushrooms under artificial light, bugs and rats being the protein available, they trade the coal for cloth, thread, sprouting-seeds, and anything else they need. (Traders work for the monsters, I know it's a horrible gypsy analogue but I don't know how to get around it. The only thing I know for sure about Romani is that everything I know is probably not true.) I had to come up with justification about why they have hunters that go outside. (Mainly to try to cull monsters and have the ability to fight them if they do get in, but I think there's also something that hunters can gather while they're out there.)
 

farntfar

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Well clearly the word maid and the word maiden come from the same root. Implying that your maid, or maidservant or handmaid would be expected to be unmarried and virginal; what goes on in Gilead, or indeed with Jacob and Bilhah in Genesis notwithstanding.
 

Montero

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To me, this could make sense if you're talking long distances between realms, where the thread material (like hemp or silk) was only available in the other location, and local types of thread were drastically inferior.
You need to consider technology of production vs available transport and reliability of supply.
So taking seventeenth century, silk was imported, some cotton was imported, wool, linen and nettle were all locally available - and wool was a major export from the UK, processed and unprocessed. Every small holding tended to have an area of plants given over to growing fibre plants and a retting pool for mulching them down to get out the durable fibre. In the coal mine situation, with parties going out to hunt, you could have annual harvesting parties going out under guard to cut down plants, leave to rett for a few weeks, go out and bundle up and further process fibre in the safety of the coal mine. It might not be the best quality thread, but you don't need the best quality thread for everything. 17th century period everyone would be working away in otherwise "idle" moments - combing out linen thread from the retted bundle, working it on a distaff, working with a lucet to turn it into useful cord. Us modern folks used to factory produced goods really don't have a good handle on how much people made for themselves. In some ways it's the same as baler twine on farms. You need bits of string for everything and try to have some in your pocket. I always wince about books and films where they cut the thread to release the tied up prisoner and drop the bindings on the floor. Would they b****cks.
 

Bramandin

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with parties going out to hunt, you could have annual harvesting parties going out under guard to cut down plants

That's a good idea. I did just half-watch a video on how to turn nettle into twine, but what are the chances of someone who isn't into that knowing how to do it?

I already set up the idea that everyone keeps their hair ultra-short, so you'd think they'd have a system where people would have periods of growing it out if they knew how to spin. MC also thinks that cloth grows on the backs of some animals, and doesn't believe someone when they say turning plants into cloth isn't magic.
 
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Bramandin

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I'm trying to make the distinction between an unmarried woman who will mend tunics for anyone in exchange for food and a married woman who it would be scandalous if she repaired the tunic of anyone outside of her family. I'm speaking literally here.
 

Wayne Mack

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I did a search on the 'female equivalent of manservant' and found 'maid servant.'

I am assuming that this is some sort of paid position and not something that might be provided by relatives. There are also specific terms for focus on specific tasks.
 

Bramandin

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I did a search on the 'female equivalent of manservant' and found 'maid servant.'

I am assuming that this is some sort of paid position and not something that might be provided by relatives. There are also specific terms for focus on specific tasks.

Paid position as in it's treated like a brothel even if you literally need mending. This is getting weird if they do treat mending as equivalent to a lewd act. Men are made fun of for fixing their own clothes, it's shameful for a married woman to fix clothes for anyone but her family, women who fix clothes for strangers are seen as less desirable for marriage, and then there's having a prepubescent boy do it instead.

I plugged maid and old maid into a thesaurus. I might go with biddy and say that world's entomology is doing as their bid. Or I might call them hags to reflect their undesirableness, though I might go with hag as in healer... Digger by Ursula Vernon » Archive » Digger Bah, I think I figured out how to dodge around it for now.
 

The Judge

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A needlewoman is a seamstress, or if you want to use an archaic form -- seamster, sempster, or semptress. If these single women also carried out other jobs for pay, then the name would probably stick but would then encompass the meaning of someone who does anything for money.

An old adjective for something sewn or done by stitiching is "sutile", so you could create a noun from that eg sutilster, and "sutorian" means of or pertaining to cobbling or sewing, and again a noun could be back-formed from it eg sutorier.

For servants generally, "drudge" would usually denote unskilled work but might be applied as a term of disparagement, a lackey is someone at everyone's beck and call, and a factotum is someone who does all kinds of work.

Or why not just go with "workwoman"?
 

Bramandin

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Or why not just go with "workwoman"?

This caught my eye, so I'll put it into the worldbuilding that I'm running as a background process.

It's connected with sellsword, which means possible progress.
 

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