What is a Page?

Mary McMahon

A page or pageboy is a young male servant who performs an assortment of odd jobs. Pages are typically young men who are interested in pursuing more advanced careers in the environments they work in. For example, a United States Senate page may have an interest in politics, and he hopes that by serving in the Senate, he can learn through observation. The page tradition is quite ancient, with many societies having some version of a page, and in the modern era, women may serve as pages as well.

Squires served knights as pages and servants in exchange for military training.
Squires served knights as pages and servants in exchange for military training.

The word “page” is derived from the Greek paidion, which means “child.” Early pages were servants who assisted warriors, typically using their experience as pages as a form of training. After a set period working as a page, a young man could be elevated to a position as a warrior in training, and then ultimately he could become a full-fledged warrior. In the medieval era, pages were eligible to become squires, and later to turn into knights, and a complex system of rules governed the duties and privileges of these individuals.

In addition to serving warriors, pages have also traditionally worked in noble houses and in government buildings. In these environments, pages are heavily relied upon to pass messages, and they may also perform other odd tasks, ranging from assisting with dinner service to picking up someone's dry cleaning. In some countries, people may work as pages before pursuing careers in service as butlers and other household staff, using their experience as pages as a form of apprenticeship, to help them determine whether or not service is a good career.

Pages also work in environments like hotels and casinos, where they are used to carry messages to and from the hotel, and within it. Like pages of old, they typically wear official uniforms to make them easy to identify. Pages who work in the hospitality industry often do so for a short period of time, as these jobs don't have a lot of possibilities for advancement. As a courtesy, such pages are often tipped by the recipients of their messages.

The concept of “page” as a carrier of messages lives on in the concept of “paging” someone with a message or a request to show up at a particular location. While such messages are carried by electronic means today, they would once have been delivered by actual pages.

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