By Ashley Oldham
This year’s Jane Austen Summer Program offers a new way to support our Regency ball: giving attendees the opportunity to become patrons or patronesses of the event. This includes special incentives such as VIP treatment, photo opportunities with “Mr. Darcy,” fanfare upon entrance, and an aristocratic title during the ball. We are excited to introduce this new feature!
This week, meet one of our patronesses: veteran JASP attendee Maureen O’Connor — and potential special guest Mr. Knightley, the cutest Jane Austen-loving puppy around! O’Connor will go by the aristocratic title of the “Dowager Duchess of St. Augustine” at the ball.
We chatted with her about her love for Austen, excitement for the ball, and, of course, Mr. Knightley.
Why does she love Jane Austen, and when did that love first begin?
At the beginning of 2010, O’Connor’s husband was diagnosed with lymphoma, and had just started chemotherapy. In the hospital with him, she was Googling when she came across the books “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict” and “Rude Awakening.” After reading them, she decided to join the Jane Austen Society of North America. For her, it was a lifeboat in a difficult point in her life. In 2012, she volunteered making and selling gowns at JASNA’s Annual General Meeting in New York. After having a great experience and meeting many wonderful people, she began going to any Austen convention that she could drive to!
Is there anything we could do to possibly coax Mr. Knightley into coming?
O’Connor would love to have Mr. Knightley join us at this year’s convention. Mr. Knightley has a tail coat, and has been going to Louisville’s Austen festivals for many years all dressed up. We think he is the most adorable Austen-loving puppy we’ve ever seen!
What’s her favorite thing about JASP? Does she have a favorite dance?
O’Connor’s favorite dance is the “Duke of Kent Waltz.”
We asked her to imagine that she had chance to be best friends with any Austen character — whom would she choose, and why?
She would choose Emma. It’s her favorite book, and Mr. Knightley is, of course, her favorite hero! O’Connor loves to be the counterpoint to people who say that Emma is “this or that” and thinks that Emma is true to her status in life.
What is she most looking forward to at this year’s JASP?
O’Connor is most looking forward to the authors who will be speaking, and is excited to learn about the topics of class and wealth in modern-day society that their works address.
If you would be interested in becoming a patron or patroness of the ball, let us know!