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 [1]

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.


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