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Context On Demand – The Mitford Girls: Six Scandalous Sisters with Hattie Bennett
Scandal, society, and political turmoil. If you’re not already hooked by the Mitford Sisters, you’ll become intrigued as you dive into their stunning stories with an acclaimed art historian – available to watch now!
The Mitford Sisters, or the Mitford Girls, were six daughters of an English Lord who dominated the headlines in the 1930s and 40s with their scandalous behavior and extreme politics. There can be few families whose members can claim close personal friendships with Maya Angelou and JFK, Winston Churchill, and Adolf Hitler. There can be few groups of siblings that include four best-selling authors and one Duchess. Yet the Mitfords, the six daughters of an obscure Oxfordshire aristocrat with limited education and rural seclusion, were able to achieve literary achievement and lived lives that were often at the center of controversy. This conversation will look at the intriguing biographies of the Mitford Sisters and deepen our understanding of the lives and works of these formidable ladies.
Together, we’ll look at each of the sisters individually, as well as within the familial context as a whole, to better learn just who they were and how they gained notoriety. Nancy enjoyed a hugely successful career as a novelist, often drawing on biographical details to create memorably and often hilariously funny characters, whilst Pamela, the most "rural" Mitford, preferred a quiet life in the country, marrying the dashing and brilliant physicist Derek Jackson. The polarizing politics of the time drew Jessica (Decca) to Communism, eloping at 19 and eventually settling in California, where she joined the American Communist Party and worked closely with The Civil Rights Congress.
Next, we’ll learn of the sister closest in age to Decca, Unity, whose fixation on Hitler led her to move to Munich, where she ingratiated herself into his inner circle with tragic consequences. We’ll discuss how beautiful Diana scandalized society by leaving her wealthy husband, Brian Guinness, for the married leader of the English fascists, Oswald Mosley. Lastly, the youngest, Debo, married into the Cavendish family, becoming Duchess of Devonshire and chatelaine (and savior) of Chatsworth, one of the most important country houses in England. As we close our conversation, we will look at the childhood homes of the family and the background of Lord and Lady Redesdale, as well as the one brother, beloved Tom, who led a short but remarkable life, dying in Mandalay during World War II.
The fascination with the Mitford Sisters and their diverse personalities is something that still captures the curiosity of learners today. Led by Hattie Bennett, an expert on Art History with a keen interest in the Mitfords, this interactive webinar will look at the intriguing biographies of the Mitford Sisters. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased knowledge of the lives and works of these remarkable women.
As you watch, we encourage you to think about these questions:
With little formal education, how did the sisters achieve their great literary success? Was it talent or notoriety?
Given the horrors of the First World War and the loss of a beloved uncle, can we empathize with (but not condone) Unity and Diana's support of fascism?
Was Decca as misguided as her sisters in support of Stalinist Communism?
With a father as dominant as Lord Redesdale, was the sisters’ choice of male partners with “robust” personalities a consequence of their upbringing?
Watch On Demand, Submit Questions to Your Expert
Learn Now with Context on Demand. Enjoy this 60-minute webinar that can be watched immediately — or up to 40 days after purchase. As you watch, you can submit questions, thoughts, or comments that will be answered in a 30-minute Live Q&A session. Guided discussion questions and recommended reading lists to support further learning on the topic will also be provided. Additional FAQ answers are available below.
Hattie has a degree in History of Art and an MA in Historic Interiors, she has a life-long passion and fascination in Fine and Decorative Arts, particularly works produced in Europe from the 16th to 18th century. After working for the Royal Collection in the Print Room at Windsor Castle, she was a curator for a private collector of 17th and 18th century prints and drawings. Hattie has worked for London's foremost framer of important old master paintings during which time she sharpened her appreciation and understanding of the decorative arts and the changing tastes of collecting. Recently she has been dealing in prints and works of art as well as taking groups of all ages to museums and galleries.
When will I receive the On Demand Lecture to watch? Immediately after checkout, you will be emailed your order confirmation. This will contain a link saying "Watch Now."
How long is this video presentation? Each presentation is approximately 60 minutes long.
How long is the presentation available to rewatch? What happens if I need to pause and then resume on a later date? Your webinar is available to re-watch for up to 40 days from the date of purchase. Use the link in your order confirmation email to re-visit the classroom.
How can I send Context my questions for the Expert? Input your questions into the form below your video screen on the "Watch Now" page.