Fellowes: Edith, I’m afraid, probably like everybody else in a way. She’s always been, for me, the most fascinating character because she’s got such a transformation in the course of 1912 to 1925; that’s not a terribly long time. (In) 13 years, the world changed so much but particularly changed for women of her type. By her type, I really mean an upper class woman who before the first world war knew how her life was going to turn out. She’d have a life like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, her great grandmother’s and so on. She was going to do the season, find a husband and then just live in the country with a few children. And Edith, out of all her sisters, is the least radical. She’s really not very ambitious; she’s quite content to lead this simple sort of life. And then it becomes increasingly clear during the course of (the) first world war this isn’t going to be her story.
After the first world war, there were so many more women than men, nearly 2 million more women than men - which caused the problem of the surface women. They statistically just couldn’t get married and have children, but that’s all they were prepared for.
So they had to find something else to do and many of them really rose to the challenge. By 1922, a quarter of the country’s undergraduates were female which was absolutely unprecedented. They worked as nurses and teachers, but also ran businesses, flew planes, discovering cures and running magazines. Seeing Edith grow into this alternative vision - it wasn’t one she planned but she begins to make it work for her.