We’re working our way through the Great Women of Netflix series, beginning with the ladies of Downton Abbey. We’ve discussed Lady Mary Crawley, the icy heiress, then jumped to Sybil, the rebel who broke free of family expectations. And now we’re on to Edith, the middle child – lost somewhere between the two polar opposites, overlooked by parents, frequently by men, and who, in the end, outshines them all.
The story begins with Edith as the dowdy, whiny sister, jealous of Mary’s beauty and popularity, and too self-involved to achieve Sybil’s kind detachment. She is petty, mean, and completely at loose ends. The poor woman is desperately in search of a purpose and just when she thinks she’s found one, it’s pulled out from beneath her. But Edith manages to get better with age, and so should we all.
6 Things to learn from the long-suffering Lady Edith:
- Take action. Since we’re talking about Netflix it’s easy to refrain from doing something new in favour of spending all waking hours binge-watching. I speak from experience here. Where would that have gotten Edith? Not a baby, not a publishing business, and not a Baronette or whatever Bertie is. Edith learned to drive, became a journalist (despite parental disapproval), and held onto that publishing business which I think showed real character. She put herself out there and risked failure, the wrath of her father, and snide remarks from her sister. She filled her days and learned something. We should all do that.
- Grooming is everything. There’s really no excuse to look dowdy unless you truly don’t care and in that case, bless you. But if you do care, make the most of what you’ve got, and that doesn’t have to translate into a high maintenance routine. It is possible to find a hairstyle that works for your hair type, reducing overall effort and maximizing your natural attributes. In Edith’s case, she lands that gorgeous, coppery bob and the rest is history. Her clothes improved as well which may have more to do with the production budget, but sticking to our theme, she started to dress as a grown-up woman and clothes really can set you apart.
- Self-awareness. Edith is well aware of her weaknesses, including her pettiness. She may not regret it but at least she’s aware of it. With her self-awareness comes an endearing candor with men which attracts some very nice men. All of Edith’s men are kind and intelligent people – that’s a good sign. Mary’s only bit of self-awareness was that she wanted somebody rich so she could end up being the Countess of Downton, and look at some of the idiots she attracted, aka Tony!
- Stick to your guns. She wanted that illegitimate baby and she held on to her. Then she wanted the baby in the house with her, and she found a way. And then, she made the worse mistake of all by not telling Bertie about her daughter and almost blew the best chance she had at a happy-ending. But the baby came first (as it should), and she was rewarded, Bertie stepped up to the plate and the marriage was back on. All that to say, once you decide on your priorities you should not be swayed for the sake of a man or any other distraction.
- Take your work seriously and others will too. This is something I love to see (though not frequently enough) – people who approach whatever work they do as a professional. In Edith’s case, during the war when the Abbey was a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, she kept busy writing difficult letters home on behalf of injured soldiers, finding them books to read and running errands. These were not glamorous jobs, nor did they garner her any accolades from the family. Alas, she was recognized by the soldiers and considered the unsung hero of their recover. Yes, they loved her! Now it’s one thing for a person with a professional degree to take their work seriously, but what if your job is not a recognized ‘profession’? Should you still approach it with the depth, focus, curiosity and commitment to outcomes as professional degrees? Yes! And when you do, you garner huge respect. And Edith took that approach time and time again, farming, writing, publishing and whatever you call the work she did on behalf of those soldiers.
I think that’s all for Edith. I loved Edith’s happy ending – the wallflower who blossomed.
Next up – no, not the downstairs women – the virtues of these I think we’re well-represented in the series. Let’s face it, Anna’s practically a saint, Mrs. Patmore is mom, Mrs. Hughes is the matriarch and probably would be a CEO of a global conglomerate in the 21st century, and Daisy has all that gumption.
Instead, let’s move on to The Crown and take a closer look at the queen bee herself, Queen Elizabeth.