Lady's companions were employed because upper- and middle-class women spent most of their time at home.A lady's companion might be taken on by an unmarried woman living on her own, by a widow, or by an unmarried woman who was living with her father or another male relation but had lost her mother, and was too old to have a governess.
A lady's companion was a woman of genteel birth who acted as a paid companion for a woman of rank or wealth.
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In the latter case the companion would also act as a chaperone; at the time, it would not have been socially acceptable for a young lady to receive male visitors without either a male relation or an older lady present (a female servant would not have sufficed).
The occupation of lady's companion has been made obsolete in the United Kingdom and most other developed countries.