The Evolution of Women’s Roles in Downton Abbey

September 13th, 2019The Evolution of Women’s Roles in Downton Abbey

As a fan and follower of the acclaimed BBC series, you know “Downton Abbey” often reflected the real events and cultural changes of the early 1900s. And you will be pleased to know the big-screen version, which is set about 18 months after the finale, will keep with tradition by showing the evolution of women’s roles after World War I.

When AMC visited Highclere Castle over the summer, we met with stars Elizabeth McGovern and Laura Carmichael to discuss the film’s female focus.

McGovern, who plays Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, shared that audiences will get to see the progression of women’s roles and outlooks across generations during such a pivotal moment in history. Just within Downtown Abbey, each generation of Crawley women approaches their position within the household differently. Whereas the matriarch and Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet (Maggie Smith), is a prim figurehead, Cora Crawley is much more approachable and involved with the staff and day-to-day operations. Cora’s oldest daughter, Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery), physically manages the inherited property and takes charge of the preparation for the king and queen’s visit in DOWNTON ABBEY.

Middle daughter Lady Edith Crawley (Carmichael) finds a professional role as a writer in the city, but with her marriage to Herbert Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton), she now outranks the rest of the family and has to spend her days attending events as a figurehead, like her grandmother. “There’s a frustration there because she misses being a working woman,” Carmichael said. Hear more in our exclusive interview below.

There’s also an evolution of women’s roles in service. For young women especially, service work was the only option before the war, but the rise in women’s rights and organization of trade unions resulted in new and better job opportunities. The Crawley family’s cook, Beryl Patmore (Lesley Nicol), opened her own bed and breakfast. Her assistant, Daisy (Sophie McShera), pursued an education.

The relationships between the maids and their ladies changed as well. Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Lady Mary are closer than ever, and together they’re determined to move Downton Abbey forward, with Mary leading the upstairs and Anna in control of the downstairs — and her life. Anna, we will see, has really come into her own.

We can’t wait to find out what happens next with the women of Downton Abbey and all of the other characters who will return to Highclere Castle on September 20. Get your tickets to DOWNTON ABBEY at AMC today.

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