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Mutual Admiration Society

Mutual Admiration Society

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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Genre: Biography & True Stories

On Sale: 7th November 2019

Price: £20

ISBN-13: 9781472154422


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
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
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
A blend of group biography and social history, Mutual Admiration Society tells a quintessentially English story
Francis Wilson, The Times
Well-written and fascinating, it's equally successful as a biography and social history
Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express
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
Sophie Read, TES
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
The New Yorker
It is a tribute to that precious but still unsung thing: the loving bond between female friends, based on intellectual exchange and deep affection
Charlotte Higgins, Guardian
An enjoyable anthem to friendship
Hephzibah Anderson, Observer
Hugely enjoyable . . . skilfully explore[s] the new roles that women were creating for themselves, roles that women are still trying to define today. While pointing out their prejudices and blind spots, not least their class privilege, Moulton salutes their determination to be taken seriously as women and human beings . . . Modern-day readers can thank the ambitious, complicated, funny, brave women of the Mutual Admiration Society
Anna Carey, Sunday Business Post