Lady's First on Downton Abbey

Overlooked Edith makes a run for feminist-icon status

Jilted by suitors, insulted by her older sibling, pitied by her parents: there's a reason Lady Edith, Downton Abbey 's middle sister to end all middle sisters, has a reputation as a sad sack.

But as the show's fourth season, set in 1922, kicks off for U.S. viewers, things have started to change for Edith--and not just because one sister is dead and the other's a widow. She's the latest fictional fighter in the history of women's rights, an ur--career woman and the precursor to Mad Men 's Peggy Olson and Masters of Sex 's Virginia Johnson.

"She would have been the most conventional...

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