Members Meeting - Sept 21 2019
A kick off to the new season and a look at service “From Stewards to Scullery Maids” in honour of the Downton Abbey movie premiere
Our intrepid Program Coordinator Jane welcomed members to the first meeting of the season. She began by sharing the short congratulations video she took during one of this summer’s garden parties, wishing the main JASNA group a happy 40th anniversary.
New webmaster Luisa was congratulated and thanked for taking on the new design and updating of our website. Luisa in turn thanked Judith for her past work on the website. The past has been archived, so none of our history will be lost. So far, 80 visitors from around the world have viewed our new design, which focuses on information for members and prospective members.
Amy was also thanked for taking on the library, leaving the group looking for a tea volunteer in case we have any interested members.
Our presentation, entitled From Stewards to Scullery Maids, was given by Regional Coordinator Laurie. She based much of her talk on Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published by 1861 and on Kristen Koster’s Regency Era Servants.
Focussing on “downstairs”, Laurie explained that before electricity even a manor house needed a full-time labour force. Upper servants served the family (upstairs), while lower servants worked behind the scenes. The status of personal servants followed the hierarchical status of those they served; death of the served could bring unemployment to the servers.
We enjoyed general discussion about servants moving up and ways they could achieve their ambitions. They could change estates and positions, place and respond to advertisements, follow word-of-mouth, and excel at their duties.
After good conversation over tea, members became writers for a short while. Laurie and Jane introduced us to an activity from The Jane Austen Writers’ Club by Rebecca Smith. She helped the group recognize that in her novels Jane Austen quickly pointed out characters’ faults and foibles. Dividing into small groups, members took on the challenge of introducing one of Austen’s upstairs characters through lens of a downstairs character. Each group did a dramatic reading: the cook mocking Mrs Bennet’s flightiness, another cook introducing Lady Catherine de Burgh, a footman complaining about Lady Catherine’s rude orders, a housemaid bemoaning Mr Bennet’s pernickety behaviour, and Mary Crawford’s lady’s maid copying her mistress’s snobbery in critiquing Fanny Price. Lots of laughs brought our meeting to a conclusion.