Mutual Admiration Society
Mr B's review
You are Dorothy L Sayers, an intelligent, witty, outspoken woman at Somerville College in Oxford. Unfortunately, it is 1912 and women’s rights are thin on the ground – even down to the fact that the university won’t confer degrees on women. What do you do? You form a legendary support group with a few like-minded friends that successfully challenges the status quo and witnesses milestones in female emancipation. This is a lively, feisty, anecdote laden history.
A group biography of renowned crime novelist Dorothy L. Sayers and the Oxford women who stood at the vanguard of equal rights.
In 1912, Dorothy L. Sayers and five friends founded a writing group at Somerville College, Oxford; they dubbed themselves the ‘Mutual Admiration Society.’ Brilliant, bold, serious, and funny, these women were also sheltered and chaperoned, barred from receiving degrees despite taking classes and passing exams. But things for women were changing – they gained the right to vote and more access to the job market. And in October 1920, members of the Mutual Admiration Society returned to Oxford to receive full degrees, among the first women to be awarded such honours.
Sayers and her classmates remained lifelong friends and collaborators as they battled for a truly democratic culture that acknowledged their equal humanity. They pushed boundaries in reproductive rights, sexual identity, queer family making, and representations of women in the arts – despite the casual cruelty of sexism that still limited women’s choices. Historian Mo Moulton brings these six indomitable women to vivid life, as they navigate the complexities of adulthood, work, intimacy, and sex in Interwar England.
A celebration of feminism and female friendship, Mutual Admiration Society reveals how Sayers and the members of MAS reshaped the social order – and how, together, they fought their way into a new world for women.
An author of detective fiction who also translated Dante. A pioneering historian of everyday life. A beloved teacher who directed amateur theatre. A birth control advocate and purveyor of pregnancy and parenting advice. In this compelling book, Mo Moulton shows how four women with very different ways of expressing their genders and sexualities inspired and supported one another for decades . . . Required reading, not only for Dorothy Sayers aficionados, but for anyone interested in queer lives and in the history of friendship. — Sharon Marcus, author of The Drama of Celebrity Part literary biography, part social history, Mo Moulton’s eloquent narrative testifies to the transformative power of creative work — Laura Doan, author of Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality and Women’s Experience of Modern War This is an extraordinary book. Vivid and moving, Mutual Admiration Society is a compelling history of the intimacies forged by the remarkable circle of women around Dorothy L. Sayers, and the productive relationship between love and friendship and intellectual and professional labour. It is much more than this, though: as an intimate history of British society and culture in the first decades of the twentieth century, Mutual Admiration Society makes us think again about how – in private as much in public – modern Britain was made (and remade) through the creative work of such women. Beautifully written, animated by a sense of quiet power and amazing ambition, this is essential reading for anyone interested in modern British history — Matt Houlbrook, author of Prince of Tricksters Deeply researched, beautifully written . . . If you already know and love the work of Dorothy L. Sayers, Moulton will help you understand her better as you read about the novelist in her element; if you don’t know Sayers yet, let this gorgeous work – whose intense focus on women, their life-sustaining friendships, and their personal and professional desires echoes the very best of Sayers’s novels – be part of your introduction — Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know Mo Moulton’s Mutual Admiration Society came along at exactly the right time. This lively, rigorous, and surprising history of Dorothy L. Sayers and her circle is a clear-eyed, optimistic look at a particularly critical stage in the evolution of feminism. It offers both a fresh look at the past and real insight into the ways we might collectively shape a better future * Kristen Roupenian, author of Cat Person And Other Stories *
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