Jessica Fellowes discusses women of ‘Downton Abbey’

Jessica Fellows, author of the bestselling The World of Downton Abbey and its follow up, The Downton Chronicles, spoke on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Greg Zwiers

Author Jessica Fellowes spoke to a full Great Hall Tuesday night at the Memorial Union. Fellowes is the niece of Julian Fellowes, the creator of the series “Downton Abbey,” and she has written two bestselling books about the show.

“Downton Abbey” takes place between World War I and World War II, in a time where a lot changed, said Fellowes.

“I liked the historical context, it kind of explained the situation of the characters better and the social position of some of the folks in the show,” said Kelly Sebetka, senior in English.

Fellowes explained the issues the women in the show faced with the changing of technology and society. Cars, planes, telephones and large medical improvements became a part of daily life for the people at the time.

Fellowes said the three daughters — Mary, Sybil and Edith — each showed a different way of gaining social power. Mary follows the old way of looking to marry into power, Sybil gets involved in women’s suffrage and Edith looks for any way to get power, Fellowes said.

Edith is one of Fellowes’ favorite characters because she shows the most turn around. Women in this era were allowed to earn a degree. Because the war had left Britain with fewer men, some women felt free to work until 1919 when Fellowes said they dealt with pressure to give the jobs back to men.

The servants of the house were also a topic of Fellowes’ lecture. Between the World Wars, the downstairs servants of aristocratic houses had hardly any time off and were completely dependent on their employers.

Fellowes said the role of Mrs. Patmore, the cook, would normally be a man, but that her uncle had wanted another female character.

Fellowes’ books contain many pictures and examine the clothing and accessories of the characters in the show. Fellowes said the creators try to use authentic textiles and find vintage costumes saying if it is in the show, somebody looked into it.

After Fellowes concluded the lecture, there was a time for questions. Most of the questions were related to what may be coming in the next season.