Paying Occupations for Gentlewomen

From Cassell’s Family Magazine – 1896
I would mention poodle-clipping as an agreeable and remunerative profession in which a few gentlewomen might engage. In an article on ” New Paid Occupations for Women ” published in Cassall’s Family Magazine about a year ago, I spoke of a new employment, then recently started in New York—that of brushing, combing and exercising pet dogs, and have since heard that the occupation has been taken up by some English girls with great success. There are so many pet dogs in London that there is chance for much competition in this matter, and it is certainly a very healthy and agreeable sort of outdoor work. The business of poodle-clipping for women, however, is one that, so far as I know, has never been attempted either in the United States or in England, and I would suggest to some enterprising gentlewoman that she be the first to engage in it. The idea occurred to me about two months ago, when on making a morning call I found a friend wielding a pair of clippers on her own poodle, which she explained had been previously subjected to careless if not cruel treatment by his male barber, who charged twelve shillings and sixpence for his mutilations. In recommending poodle-clipping as a suitable employment for women, I am able to vouch for its practicability, because I have since made the experiment myself on a poodle, and have had the pleasure of hearing my handiwork highly commended.

The Poodle, from a 17th century engraving

Poodles are now so fashionable and are so frequently to be seen in the streets and parks that I need not describe the ” costumes” affected by them, but it is not generally known that the machine which clips and shaves them so fantastically and artistically may be purchased in a small size suitable for ladies’ use for seven shillings and sixpence, and that a pair of nippers for cutting their nails is to be bought for half-a-crown. These two things are all that are required for starting in business. The shopman from whom the clippers are purchased (they are to be bought at any of the general stores) will explain all that it is necessary to know as to the manner of using the machine, which is an affair greatly resembling a pair of scissors, composed of two rows of sharp teeth or combs and worked precisely on the scissors principle. If, however, one is fearful to begin the work without having first seen it done, it is an easy matter to gain admittance to a dog fancier’s and see a poodle clipped. The gentlewoman must, of course, be clever with her fingers and have something of an artistic eye in order to clip a dog in the prevailing style, which demands ” ruffles ” and ” shoes and stockings ” and ” mustachios.” The nail nippers are only an extra strong pair of scissors, which must be used in such a way as to cut off only the tip end of the nail in order to avoid hurting the dog.
The next thing is to get the poodles, which should be an easy matter if a well-worded advertisement is inserted in the newspaper columns where dogs and horses are announced for sale. This department of the paper is much better than the ordinary ” situations wanted ” column. It would also be well to advertise in a popular ladies’ weekly paper, or, better, in a periodical devoted to the interests of household pets. Let the advertisement state that a gentlewoman who is fond of and kind to animals is prepared to visit ladies’ houses for poodle-clipping. The price should be stated as being lower than that charged by ordinary dog fanciers, and as there are probably none who would undertake the work for less than half-a-guinea, let the lady poodle-clipper shave dogs for seven shillings and sixpence each. The work would require no setting up in a shop and no tools except those I have mentioned. The owner of the dog will have a large kitchen table which is to be used as the ” barber’s chair ” during the clipping process, and the person who does the clipping will need a large print apron.

There is room in London for at least six or eight gentlewomen as dog-clippers, and as the up-to-date poodle needs clipping every month or six weeks, there is no reason why such women should not find steady employment. The time required for clipping one dog is from three to four hours. For women who are fond of animals—and kindness to animals is one of the most pleasing traits in the Englishwoman’s character—this work should be neither difficult nor disagreeable, and it is quite within the bounds of practicability, which is more than can be said for many other occupations recommended to gentlewomen.

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