The Mutual Admiration Society

Find out which member of the Mutual Admiration Society you are with this thoroughly scientific quiz.

The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and Her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women (November 2019) is a group biography of renowned mystery novelist Dorothy L. Sayers and her remarkable group of friends. Sayers, Muriel St. Clare Byrne, Charis Frankenburg, and Dorothy Rowe met at Somerville College in the early 20th century. Dubbing themselves the Mutual Admiration Society, Sayers and her classmates remained lifelong friends and collaborators as they fought for a truly democratic culture that acknowledged their equal humanity. A celebration of feminism and female friendship, The Mutual Admiration Society offers crucial insight into Dorothy L. Sayers and her world. Read excerpts at Lithub and Lapham’s Quarterly.

Published in the US by Basic Books. Buy from Powells, indiebound, Barnes & Noble, or your preferred shop or online retailer.
Published in the UK by Little, Brown (Corsair). Buy from hive, Wordery, Waterstones, or your preferred shop or online retailer.

“One of the best things about Moulton’s book is the way it refuses to heroise these women, heroic as they undoubtedly were at times. But they were also complicated and singular… a tribute to that precious but still unsung thing: the loving bond between female friends, based on intellectual exchange and deep affection.”—The Guardian

“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

“Well-written and fascinating, it’s equally successful as a biography and social history.”—Sunday Express

“What Moulton best accomplishes in this intimate and scholarly book is a re-creation of a world in transition. The Mutual Admiration Society came of age at a vital juncture in history, a time of new opportunity for women.”—BookPage

“Rich and careful… Moulton vividly shows us the importance of friendship and marginalization as spurs to ambition… The book excavates the social and emotional context of the lives of four indomitable women with painstaking affection; it is as valuable as it is enjoyable.”—Times Higher Education

“With real affection, the author amplifies the message that Sayers herself broadcast: ‘the friendship of which the female sex is said to be incapable.’ … Take that male chauvinist pigs at 10 Downing Street and in the House of Lords. English sisterhood has been, indeed, a powerful force for good.”—New York Journal of Books

“Moulton, with a keen eye for humorous detail and moments of humanity, deftly captures not only the lives of these women, but the enduring power of female friendship.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Sign me up as an admirer of Mo Moulton’s The Mutual Admiration Society, a fresh and invigorating narrative that brings to life a close-knit coterie of brilliant Oxford women. Spanning eight decades and two world wars, Moulton’s deeply researched group biography has a message for today — one about intellectual integrity and the enduring power of a scholarly female community.”—Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller and Elizabeth Bishop

“If you already know and love the work of Dorothy L. Sayers, Moulton will help you understand her better; if you don’t, let this gorgeous work — whose intense focus on women’s humanity, ambitions, and life-sustaining friendships echoes the very best of Sayers’s novels — be part of your introduction.”—Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know

“In this compelling book, Moulton shows how six women inspired and supported one another for decades. This moving account of their collective bond is 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

“This is an extraordinary book. Vivid and moving, The 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 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 and Queer London and professor of cultural history, University of Birmingham

“Beautiful and meticulous. The Mutual Admiration Society is about the collaborative friendships of women who refused to be anonymous. This was always an important story to tell — but these days, it is vital reading.”—Kevin Birmingham, author of The Most Dangerous Book

“Witty and insightful. Tracking lifelong friendships, Moulton reveals how a community of writers and activists transcended the limitations placed upon women in twentieth-century Britain. Their stories are by turns charming and harrowing, revealing how an understanding of women’s intimate lives can illuminate the times in which they lived.”—Megan Kate Nelson, author of The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West

“Intensely engrossing. 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

“A deeply affecting group portrait of a pathbreaking set of female friends who attended Oxford at the dawn of the twentieth century. If you’re a fan of Mary McCarthy’s The Group, you’ll love The Mutual Admiration Society.”—Rachel Hope Cleves, professor of history, University of Victoria and author of Charity and Sylvia

“This lively, rigorous, and surprising history 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 You Know You Want This