Most of the attendees came in Regency costumes, handmade and Etsy-bought, and the gowns were a wide array of colors, and in every pastel hue. Fans, gloves, feather headpieces and tiaras were the accessories. There were even some quite dapper gentlemen in period clothing, including a visiting Janeite who flew in all the way from Boston.
For those who are intrigued by the thought of dancing and period costumes, or if you are a fan of Jane Austen or British literature in general, the Jane Austen Society of North America might be for you. JASNA was founded in 1979 by, among others, Joan Austen-Leigh, the great-great grand-niece of Austen. The organization has 81 regional groups across North America, and roughly 5,000 members.
The Alabama chapter of JASNA was founded in 1998 by Mary Curry; she and several interested ladies from Tuscaloosa held the first meeting at the Auburn University at Montgomery, and Curry was chosen as the first Regional Coordinator of the Alabama chapter. In the early years of the chapter, the yearly December luncheon, a gathering that celebrates both the Christmas season and Austen’s December 16th birthday, was held at the University Club in Tuscaloosa and at the old Birmingham country club.
In recent years, the Alabama chapter have met at the Homewood Library and in members homes throughout the greater Birmingham library. The next meeting will be a luncheon at a restored antebellum mansion in Greensboro. Along with the highly anticipated Regency ball and Austen’s Birthday-Christmas luncheon, other events throughout the year include discussions about various aspects of the Regency period, British history, and in-depth conversations about Austen’s six completed novels. The speakers often include experts of British literature and Austen; our next featured speaker will be Dr. Christine Colón, professor of English at Wheaton College.
Although the members of our chapter are primarily Alabama natives, the Jane Austen Zoom book club that began during the early months of the COVID lockdown also brought into the Alabama chapter interested new members from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. People from as far away as Italy have also joined the Jane Austen Society of Alabama Facebook group, and the “Janeites” have a great time sharing photos, information and jokes about Austen and the many film and television adaptations of her works.
Along with the camaraderie and knowledge that is gained about British and literary history, a defining feature of the Alabama chapter of JASNA is the love of tea, iced and hot, and particularly the love of food. Scones are especially popular, and at the April 1st Regency Ball the catered dinner included multiple delicacies. However, it is at the Christmas luncheon that special effort is made to prepare food from historically accurate Regency recipes. Tarts, ham (which seems to make a cameo in every film adaptation), salmon, a beautiful dish called trifle, Prince Regent’s punch, and other savory dishes are always relished.
A fun and educational time is always had at meetings of the Jane Austen Society of Alabama, which usually happens six times a year. The recent Regency ball was an especially successful event, and next year’s ball is already eagerly awaited. If you have any interest in Jane Austen, British literature, or even old-fashioned recipes and dishes, you are welcome to check out the Jane Austen Society of Alabama’s Facebook page or official website, and if you are interested in joining please loop up the Jane Austen Society of North American website.
There are fun goings-on and many interesting people to be met in the Alabama JASNA chapter, and to close, with the words of Jane Austen herself: “The company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”