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Lecture on Women’s Role During Regency Period Kicks Off Alumni Reunion

May 29, 2024

By Joe Howell

The 2024 Alumni Reunion weekend is a wonderful, week-long event with in-person and online events held by Victoria College and the wider U of T community. The annual gathering draws together graduates from near and far back to Vic and U of T’s beautiful campuses, where they pursued their studies and forged lasting friendships. 
Kicking off the festivities at Vic was a virtual lecture held on Wednesday, May 29, titled “The Women of the Regency: A Revolution…Almost Beyond Expression,” offered by Professor Robert Morrison of Bath Spa University and Queen’s University. The talk explored the pivotal role of women during the Regency period—1811 to 1820, when the Prince of Wales became Regent and “sovereign de facto” for his father, King George III, whose health was in severe decline.

Discussion of the Regency is often “focused primarily on the achievements of men,” Professor Morrison told nearly 100 attendees, explaining the genesis of his 2020 book The Regency Years. “I wanted to write a book that brought into view the many women whose lives and works played a decisive role in shaping the Regency, including Elizabeth Fry, Lady Caroline Lamb, Anne Lister, Lady Hester Stanhope, Sarah Siddons, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen. Taken together these women transformed our understanding of performance, slavery, love, gender politics, creativity, sexuality, empire and much else.”

Diana Lawrence.

Photo of Diana Lawrence by Katherine Lenhart.

The lecture’s focus on the Regency period was thanks to Diana Lawrence Vic 8T8, incoming president of the AVC (Alumni of Victoria College), who suggested the lecture topic in part because of the popularity of Bridgerton, a dramatic series on Netflix set during the time.

“I majored in English and I took a lot of history classes when I was at Vic, so I’m having fun watching the show,” says Lawrence. “I thought we could capitalize on people’s interest in that era and go beyond Bridgerton, offering some context about what was happening outside the fancy balls and drawing rooms depicted in the series. A lot of important events and developments took place during those years that still influence our society—and Professor Morrison is just the person to tell us all about them.”

Beyond his expertise in the Regency period, Professor Morrison has some interesting connections to Vic, says Louise Yearwood Vic 8T6, executive director of Alumni Affairs & Advancement. She knows Professor Morrison through The Jane Austen Society of North America, of which Yearwood was the longtime regional co-ordinator for Toronto. He also edited a forthcoming volume of The Edinburgh Edition of the Works of John Galt, under general editor Victoria College Principal Angela Esterhammer.

Both Lawrence and Yearwood encourage interested Vic alumni to get involved with the AVC. The alumni association hopes to “expand the diversity of its membership in every sense,” says Yearwood, from demographic to geographic.

Lawrence points out that since AVC meetings are conducted virtually, members can participate from any spot on the globe. (She lives in the U.S. herself, where she’s the associate vice-president of communications at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.) “It’s easy to join and it's not a huge time commitment. I’ve found it very rewarding to reconnect and network with Vic alumni. They’re wonderful people.”

She’s excited to get more involved when she becomes president this fall. “I’d like to see the AVC help suggest more events and programming activities that can engage graduates across class years and build stronger connections with the university,” says Lawrence. “I’d like to enable our members on the association to become better informed about priorities and initiatives at Vic and U of T, so they can act as ambassadors.” 

Relive cherished memories and create new ones at 2024 Alumni Reunion! You can learn more about Vic’s events here.

Learn more about joining the AVC or email

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