Being a lady

[Episode 20 | 1818 : Charles]

Charles' mother educates him on the difference between Sarah and 'a lady'. Charles steals some of his mother's clothes in order to create a disguise for Liam but is surprised when Liam uses the disguise to gatecrash Sarah's wedding.


The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [2]

Activity 1: Servants and masters
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Subtheme(s): Fashion; Gender roles and stereotypes; Social order and education
  • Introduce the concepts of social class and social protocols to students. Discuss the factors which contributed to the divisions of class at this time. Ask them to consider the percentage of people who would form the three main class divisions of the era: upper class, middle class, lower class. This can be done with the aid of a pyramid diagram which shows the clear division and hierarchy of the upper classes; (such as the Owen family), followed by servants (such as Sarah the maid), ending with the convicts, Liam being a prime example.
  • Look at other examples from literature which illustrate how female servants were treated by their mistresses in this era. A good example of the treatment of convicts is the Australian book by Marcus Clarke: For the term of his natural life,
  • Other examples of servant-master relationships can be found in stories such as Cinderella and the Grimms' Six Servants.
  • Clothing is one factor that could differentiate between the classes in this era. Have students write a report on the fashions of the era by researching the clothing/fashion of the period, focusing in particular on the differences between the clothing of wealthy women and their servants. They should also list the influences on fashion at this time.
  • The following websites may be useful:
  1. Museum Victoria
  2. National Gallery of Australia, Governors' Wives in Colonial Australia,
  3. National Gallery of Victoria
  4. Victoria and Albert Museum
  • View the clip, Being a lady, and take note of the conversation between Charles and his mother in which she reveals her belief that Sarah is 'not a lady.' Ask students why Mrs Owen feels this way, and why this attitude was commonly held in 1818. Ask students to imagine how Sarah felt in overhearing Mrs Owen reflect on her station in life.

  • Ask students to compare the clothing of Mrs Owen and Sarah. Have them imagine that they are a costume designer for this episode and do some research on what women wore in the era. Then ask students to design a costume for both Mrs Owen and for Sarah, writing an explanation for their choice of fabric, style, accessories and colours for both characters. Ask students to also illustrate their ideas for the costumes of Mrs Owen and Sarah, and perhaps find some swatches that can be included on the design.


Activity 2: Stereotyping
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Subtheme(s): Character; Gender roles and stereotypes; Language and scripting
  • Introduce the concept of a 'stereotype' and give examples for the students to consider. For example, villains, witches and ogres from fairytales are generally considered evil, mean and 'bad', while fairies, princesses and heroes are considered helpful, kind and 'good.' Explain that stereotypes are generalisations and often a judgement on the character and actions of a person. Use the example from Shrek, that although Shrek is an ogre, he is not 'mean and nasty', and even though Princess Fiona is a princess she does not act like the stereotype of how a princess should act. As a class, have students' list ten good characters and ten bad characters from literature or film.
  • Ask students to focus on the conversation in which Mrs Owen stereotypes Sarah. Ask them the following questions:
  1. Why does Mrs Owen lend Sarah her 'second-best' shawl?
  2. Find the piece of dialogue that shows Mrs Owen's belief that she is better than Sarah.
  3. Why is Mrs Owen worried about the wedding?
  4. Why is Mrs Owen happy to see the soldiers?
  • As a class, watch the entire episode and focus on the wedding scene. Ask students to identify in what ways Liam plays the stereotype of 'a lady'. Draw students' attention to his physical behaviour, his stance, his voice and the accent he uses. Explain that this is an example of gender stereotyping and ask students if they can think of any other contemporary examples of gender stereotyping in film and TV.

  • Ask students to create another scene in which Mrs Owen realises she has been unfair to Sarah and attempts to mend her ways by treating Sarah with respect and kindness. Have them present the scene as a storyboard in which they draw the image they wish to have in each shot, as well as writing the dialogue and any sound effects to be used.


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