A housekeeper is an individual responsible for the cleaning of the house. A female who cleans houses used to be called a maid and a male who did house cleaning was called a butler. These term are not used much any more.
In the great houses of yesteryear the housekeeper could be a woman of considerable power in the domestic arena. The housekeeper of times past had her room or rooms cleaned by junior staff, her meals prepared and laundry taken care of, and with the butler presided over dinner in the Servants’ Hall. Unlike other servants, she was addressed as Mrs., regardless of marital status.
Today’s head of household staff in a great house lives in much the same manner, although fewer households can afford large retinues of servants with an elaborate hierarchy. In some countries this is due to the minimum wage.
The housekeeper is generally hired by and reports to the lady of the house. The extent to which the housekeeper supervises other staff varies from household to household. In general, the staff of a grand dwelling is divided into departments, with the housekeeper in charge of all the female staff with the possible exception of the kitchen staff, who report to the cook, and the between staff, who may report to the butler; in these cases the cook and butler reported directly to the lady of the house.
In other households, particularly those of the very wealthy who maintain several residences, the housekeeper is the ultimate head of household staff and may hire and fire junior staff, subject to the approval of the lady of the house, and make recommendations for senior staff. In this case, the cook and butler report to the lady of the house through the housekeeper.