Anthea Sweeting is a woman who appeared in the 2017 Christmas Special when it is revealed her abusive father had died.
In January 1963, when Percy dies after being caught out in a storm and dying of hypothermia on a stoop, Mabel is happy he is dead and died so horribly. When asked where her children are, as Sister Julienne would like to inform them, Mabel reveals that her son is long dead, and that her daughter "ran away". She then told the Sister that she often wondered if her husband would have "done what he did to" Anthea if she had been plain. Sister Julienne is horrified by the revelation, and Mabel simply tells her that she doesn't expect the nun to answer.
Sister Julienne and Shelagh Turner track down Anthea through medical and public records, and Shelagh reveals that Anthea's last medical visit in the Poplar doctor's office was in 1941, when Anthea was reated for lashes to her back and arms, and then discovered to be three months pregnant. The Sister remarks that Mabel hadn't told her about the pregnancy and Shelagh also reveals that the day after Anthea's doctor visit, Mabel was treated for "falling down the stairs". Both women know the truth.
Anthea is approached by Sister Julienne to inform her about her father’s death, soon after. Anthea reveals that she’s had three of her own children (currently pregnant with her fourth), and has taken in more than 30 others as fosters. Her home is covered with children’s toys, drawings and is alive with children. Despite having so many children, Anthea says she’s never struck any of them, and has only ever needed to use a stern voice to make them behave. She is very proud of that fact and says, and is obviously very happy with all her children.
Due to the fact that her father was a devout Christian, convinced that his actions were the will of god, or commended by god, Anthea hated religion all together, not even liking nuns because of their service to the church and to god. But she says the Sister was not the one who raped her once a week, while her mother was out of the house, and so does not hate her personally. She tells the Sister the truth about what happened when she left home, saying that despite her banging on the door, no one came back to answer.
Sister Julienne says she knows that she’s angry at her mother for not protecting her from her father, but says that Percy’s abuse beat Mabel into submission, making it impossible to break free. Anthea directs the Sister to an envelope with a ten bob note inside it. Anthea says that her mother slipped it into her pocket before her father threw her out, which she didn't know until she was banging on the door. She reveals that she aborted the baby, without spending the money, then going on to say that she knows deep down inside, in a place she “never goes”, she may not be as angry at her mother as she believes.
Still, Anthea coldly refuses when Sister Julienne tries to suggest going to the funeral.
As Mabel gets ready for her husband’s funeral, she says her husband was always very careful with money, and was tempted to buy a very expensive hat for the funeral “just to show ‘im whose boss now.” But she says old habits die hard. She then tells the nun that she used to carry a ten bob note in her corset, saying that she kept it hidden so that one day, when she was brave, she could escape from her husband. She says that when her daughter was thrown out, she slipped it into her coat pocket, so she could be free of her father.
The next we see of Anthea, she has given birth to a healthy baby girl, and her children marvel at the baby. Sister Julienne visits to give her a baby sweater and the Sister once more tries to convince Anthea to see her mother. Anthea declines, saying her father’s death has dragged everything to the surface and now all she wants to do is forget about her past. She tells Sister Julienne that giving birth to her “last baby” has made her start to think about her first, the baby fathered by her own father. She tells the Sister that she just wants to leave the past behind and continue on raising her children, taking in fosters, so that “nobody ever gets a door shut in their face”.
She asks the Sister to understand and Sister Julienne says she does, and promises to leave her be, to allow her to enjoy her life with her family, which she “so richly deserves.”
When the community center hosts a Christmas dinner (which came late due to the snow storm in Poplar) for the elderly in the community, Mabel attends and happily enjoys her first outting in over thirty years. Anthea arrives with her children in tow, telling her mother that she thought she’d might like to meet her newest grandchild, who they’ve decided to name Helen. She tells her mother that her other children are hers, and that others aren’t hers for long. Sister Julienne says she’s sure Mabel would love to meet all her other children.
Anthea and Mabel sit and Anthea hands her mother some flowers, saying she doesn’t know how they managed to survive in the freezing cold, but remarks that it must be because they’re “tough little things.” This reflects Anthea and Mabel herself, who both survived horrific abuse by a man that should have protected and loved them.
Anthea gives her mother the five bob note, telling her that she wanted to buy her mother flowers with it, but that the note isn’t accepted anymore. She says that the note, (including all the pain and anger they suffered) belongs in the past. Mabel tentatively embraces her daughter and granddaughter, and the two enjoy the play together, though there is a long ways to go in mending their relationship.
Anthea was the daughter of Percival and Mable Tillerson. She was born in 1926, and was physically and sexually abused by her father for years, which culminated into a pregnancy when she was 15 years old. It was at this time her mother took her to the doctor, wherein the doctor discovered belt marks all across her back, and her pregnancy.
Anthea had a brother, who eagerly signed up for the army in the 1940s when he was 16, in order to escape from his father. Mabel says her son was a hard faced young man, able to take whatever physical abuse his father threw at him. Later, her brother was captured by the Japanese and later died of cholera. Mabel was devastated, saying she knew her son could endure physical torture, but didn’t expect him to die of disease.
Anthea’s father threw her out of the house soon after she came home from the doctor’s office, and Mabel never stopped him, a fact which deeply hurt Anthea. Later, Sister Julienne was told by Mabel that Anthea had run away. Though heartbroken, Mabel was happy her daughter had escaped. Anthea would eventually marry sometime before 1954, and in 1954, she applied to become a foster parent, under her married name, Sweeting.
The day after Mr. Tillerson threw Anthea out, Mrs. Tillerson ended up in the hospital after “falling down the stairs” which caused her a black eye and three broken ribs. It is implied that Mrs. Tillerson had confronted her husband about their daughter’s pregnancy and about his horrendous abuse of her, which resulted in a brutal beating from Percy.