The Backstairs Lives Initiative

Victoria Mansion’s ongoing research into the lives of the known individuals who worked for the Morse and Libby families from the 1860s-1920s.
Please check back frequently as we continue to add content to this page in 2023.

Domestic servant Sabina Grady with a Libby grandchild on the front steps of the Mansion, ca. 1920.

About the Initiative

Beginning in the winter of 2021-2022, a handful of staff and volunteers began a deep dive into the people who made Victoria Mansion run for the Morses and the Libbys: the domestic servants. While we previously knew a handful of names, there were always more questions than answers about the individuals who worked here. Today, through extensive volunteer efforts, we know of at least 23 people – mostly immigrants or children of immigrants – who worked at the Mansion, and have discovered more about them as individuals from their descendants.

In 2022 we received a gift of items from the grandchildren of maid Hannah Shine, who worked for the Libby family at the Mansion in 1910. These are the first servant-related objects to become part of our collection, and we are thrilled to continue to move forward on this project.

We extend our gratitude to our colleagues at the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland for their ongoing assistance with this initiative.

Commitment to Ongoing Research & Interpretation

The Backstairs Lives Initiative reflects ongoing research, and Victoria Mansion is committed to interpreting the lives of the domestic staff as fully and accurately as possible both for our regular tours and in other educational programming. Onsite at Victoria Mansion, guests are able to visit the Girls’ Room, a room that has rarely been on view since the Mansion became a museum in 1941, but which provides us the space and opportunity to share what we have learned about the servants who worked at Victoria Mansion, as well as domestic service from the mid-19th century to early 20th century in general.