Women for Harding, a service organization that provides need-based scholarships for Harding students, will host the Jane Austen Experience Event on April 13, which will give attendees a peek into the life of renowned author Jane Austen.
In 2017, Vice President of Parent and Alumni Relations Liz Howell hosted a birthday party for a friend. The theme was Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” and guests were encouraged to dress in period costumes. According to Howell, the event was such a hit that she wanted to recreate the experience for the Harding community.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to bring women back to campus and engage the student body and community in the event,” Howell said.
The event will support donations to Women for Harding scholarships which sponsor 50 to 60 students a year and focus on the empowerment of students and their communities.
“Jane had a lot of spunk,” Howell said. “She was different from a lot of women at that time.”
Howell said Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” characters, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, will be represented at the event.
Hannah Wood, archives and special collections librarian at the Brackett Library, will portray Austen at the event and said she is excited to represent the writer for attendees.
“It is our hope that the literature will enrich the students’ lives and assist them in their own personal development,” Wood said.
Professor of English Dr. Stephanie Eddleman, a speaker at the event, said Austen’s characters explore themes of social class and gender.
“She tells wonderful stories, but she’s also exploring what it means to be human in certain time periods,” Eddleman said.
She also hopes those attending her presentation will leave with a better understanding of Austen and her literature.
“Some people write Jane Austen off as ‘chick lit.’ I want to introduce them to a deeper level of Austen,” Eddleman said. “I hope that people will begin to see her as a serious thinker and writer, and not just dismiss her as fluff. Most of the issues are still applicable — perhaps with certain updates — to us today.”
Eddleman said that she hopes to encourage young people to read Austen’s literature.
“To the reader who is willing to read critically and carefully, they can absolutely learn from Austen’s work,” Eddleman said.
Jean Waldrop, Brackett Library director, said that she looks forward to seeing how the event brings women together.
“When you get a bunch of women together that have a common bond, the conversations will be rich,” Waldrop said. “It’s going to be a fun and informative event.”
Waldrop also encouraged other students to attend the event to support the Women for Harding scholarship fund.
Ultimately, Howell said, Jane Austen’s work is timeless, and she hopes the event will provide access to her life and process.
Tickets for the event start at $25, and a VIP Jane Austen package is $99. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. on April 13 in the David B. Burks American Heritage Conference Center. Purchase tickets at hardingtickets.com.