Mercy Street describes Jane Green as "an entitled Southern belle and a staunch supporter of the Confederacy", whose allegiance to the South puts a strain on her relationship with her husband, James Green Sr, especially when the Union takes over their hotel.
Actress Donna Murphy describes her role as Jane Green in these terms:
"My two daughters are just coming out of their teens and my son James, Jr. is 22. He has a big chip on his shoulder for a variety of reasons. Jane runs the household. And while James, Sr. is a very strong man and he makes a lot of the big decisions for the family, you get the sense that there are not a lot of decisions made without some kind of conversations between them. And when that doesn’t happen, she’s not a happy camper.
I like her strength. I like that she’s trying to hold onto something that’s really important that she doesn’t want to lose. But I also like that she is — she’s hearing and seeing what’s going on around her and she’s trying to respect her husband’s point of view. She’s challenging her daughters, but she also can’t help but hear the truth of what each of them is saying at different moments, which is very difficult. I’m getting goose bumps talking about this. It’s painful for her because for her to let that in means that she’s going to have to give up what she’s holding onto.
In addition to giving them up as being little girls, they're becoming independent women at a time that is really hard. But she has a line where she says to Emma, ‘You know, a parent can be both angry and proud of a child, towards a child, for the very same thing.’ And it’s so true"
Jane Green as she was in real life in Alexandria in 1860
Jane Muir Green “Jean” was the mother of nine children – six daughters and three sons born over 16 years. First John, then Mary, Stephen, Jane Elizabeth “Jeannie,” Sarah “Sal,” Lydia “Lid,” James Edwin “Jim,” Emma, and the youngest, of course, was Alice “Alli.”
Running this large household would have kept her busy! No time to swan around! By 1860, her sons may have been grown men, and even her youngest daughters grown past childhood to become young ladies – but Jane had half a dozen grandchildren to distract her, and more born each year.
The year 1860 was a hard one for Jane. Her youngest daughter, Allie, a schoolgirl and only 14 years old, died in March after a seemingly sudden and unexpected illness. Both Jane and her husband James were deeply distressed by the loss of their daughter, their first great affliction as their son Stephen wrote.
A member of St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Jane was a devout woman who took comfort in her religion. According to her son Stephen’s diary, “Ma appears more composed now that she knows that dear Alli is with Jesus. She prayed for some token to show that she was willing to die which was given to her.”
...while James, Sr. is a very strong man and he makes a lot of the big decisions for the family, you get the sense that there are not a lot of decisions made without some kind of conversations between them. And when that doesn’t happen, she’s not a happy camper...
-- Donna Murphy on Jane Green
Jane was born in Virginia on November 4, 1803, so at the time of the 1860 census she was 56. She married James Green, an immigrant from England on November 22, 1825. Jane was 22, James 23. The honeymoon would have been short, because the young couple had many responsibilities to juggle. James had taken over his father’s cabinet manufacturing business only the year before, on his father’s death. He would also have taken responsibility for his widowed stepmother and young half-brothers and sisters, and Jane would have helped him.
Jane was from Scottish stock. Both her parents, John Muir and Mary Lang Muir were born in Scotland. Her father had become a prominent furniture maker in Alexandria and her mother was a teacher of needlework, an interest Jane probably shared.
James also came from a furniture-making immigrant family that had settled in Alexandria from Sheffield, England; he was an entrepreneur with an interest in modern industrial production. This hard-working couple flourished and by 1860 James Green was the wealthiest man in town.
Their oldest child, John William, was born in 1827. When the children were young, the family lived at 212-214 Prince Street, around the corner from the family furniture factory that was on the corner of Prince and Fairfax. Later, Jane spent much of her time at their country home, “The Grove,” on a hill three miles from Alexandria near Episcopal High School and the Episcopal Theological Seminary, coming into town occasionally to stay at Mansion House Hotel. At The Grove, she was hostess to the family members, friends and relatives who came to stay, sometimes for long periods of time.
The war would change all of that: Mansion House became a Union military hospital, the furniture factory a Union military prison, and the family home at The Grove was destroyed.
Jane’s younger sister Mary had married James’s wealthy friend, another English-born Alexandrian, the merchant Stephen Shinn and had five children. The two families were close, at least until their political allegiances diverged during the Civil War.