JASNA AGM 2016
Thursday Oct. 20
Emma is Presented in Washington, DC
An evening of theater listening to the conversation of a group of elite Washington ladies in 1816. Louisa Adams, future First Lady, hosts a "Ladies of 1816 Book Club" for her friends Rosalie Stier Calvert (1778-1821), First Lady Dolley Madison (1768-1849) and her friend Elizabeth Paterson Bonaparte, the scandalously divorced former wife of Napoleon's brother Jérôme.
Laura Rocklyn, the author, states they took a few liberties with the timeline as Louisa Adams and Betsy Bonaparte were still in Europe at the time. While the book club is fictional, the events discussed by the ladies are based on historical record.
|Louisa Catherine Adams|
|Rosie Stier Calvert|
|Dolley Payne Madison|
|Elizabeth Paterson Bonaparte|
The ladies sipped tea and gossiped about their family lives, fashion, modern marriage and the latest European fashions (scandalous!). Though Dolley Madison claimed she wasn't interested in other people's lives, she was an enthusiastic participant in the gossip fest. Louisa Adams, always a diplomat, tried to steer the topic towards the book they were supposed to discussing, Emma by the author of Sense & Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, etc.
Betsy Bonaparte is upset because her ex-husband, Jerome, allowed his brother Napoleon to annul their marriage, leaving her alone and pregnant in Europe. She was forced to leave Paris and go to England to have her child safely and then return to Baltimore. Jérôme was hastily married off to a German princess. She misses her fashionable friends in Paris and their stylish clothes. Louisa and Rosalie secretly think Betsy's European style dresses are a bit too scandalous for their tastes. Betsy was the Kim Kardashian of her day. The gossips loved to malign her for her flimsy dresses and defiance of proper womanhood, but she took initiative to divorce her husband and control her own finances. Betsy also thinks modern marriage should be based on wealth and admiration. The partners should also be close in age. This last statement upset Rosalie and Dolley, whose husbands were much older.
There was also a barbed comment about husbands who have extramarital relationships behind their wives' backs. Mr. Calvert was known to have fathered a second family with one of his slaves. The ladies had much to say. They were all quite opinionated and intelligent. There was undoubtedly much more discussed but it was a long day and I didn't take notes. Hopefully someone else did! I also did not stay for the talkback, but I hope another blogger will share with the rest of us.