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Mutual Admiration Society

On sale

7th November 2019

Price: £20

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781472154439

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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.

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Kristen Roupenian, author of Cat Person And Other Stories
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
Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know
Deeply researched, beautifully written
Matt Houlbrook, author of Prince of Tricksters
This is an extraordinary book . . . Beautifully written, animated by a sense of quiet power and amazing ambition, this is essential reading for anyone interested in modern British history
Francis Wilson, The Times
A blend of group biography and social history, Mutual Admiration Society tells a quintessentially English story
Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express
Well-written and fascinating, it's equally successful as a biography and social history
Sophie Read, TES
Rich and careful . . . [Mutual Admiration Society] excavates the social and emotional context of the lives of four indomitable women with painstaking affection; it is as valuable as it is enjoyable
The New Yorker
Mo Moulton shows [Dorothy L.] Sayers setting out in Gaudy Night, her most psychologically astute and least conventional novel, to present her own philosophy of women's intrinsic intellectual equality . . . Moulton's book sheds new light on Sayers's evolution as a writer, showing how some of her best work occurred in collaboration with her friend Muriel St. Clare Byrne
Charlotte Higgins, Guardian
It is a tribute to that precious but still unsung thing: the loving bond between female friends, based on intellectual exchange and deep affection
Hephzibah Anderson, Observer
An enjoyable anthem to friendship
Anna Carey, Sunday Business Post
Hugely enjoyable . . . Modern-day readers can thank the ambitious, complicated, funny, brave women of the Mutual Admiration Society
Rebecca Wallersteiner, The Lady
Written with humour and insight, this is the fascinating group biography of Dorothy Sayers and five friends who formed a writing group at Somerville College Oxford in 1912 . . . This fine celebration of female friendship and early feminism reflects how far we have travelled since the post-Edwardian era