I am listening to a BBC dramatisation on CD of Dorothy L Sayers' Gaudy Night - which is very good though not as good as reading the book. So I started reading the book yet again last night. I was struck when I was listening to the CD about how much information the story contains about the choices women were able to make about their lives. The mystery hinges on whether women should support their husbands or expose them if they do anything wrong. The theme is repeated again and again in various small events. There is also a lot of discussion about women looking for fulfilment in a career and what happens to their intellectual interests when they marry and take on their husband's interests and give up their own.
The book was published in 1935 and yet if you set aside the somewhat different standards of morals and acceptable behaviour the same issues are current today. One of the dons rails against employing a woman with children as she needs time off to nurse a sick child and can't put her work first and again this is a recurring theme. There is much discussion about falsification of scientific results and historical research and whether such things are acceptable if the person concerned does it because they need the money they will earn to support wives and children.
This book has always been a favourite of mine which I re-read on a regular basis but the subtext - if you like - only struck me in the last few days having read several books on a feminism related theme. I didn't think women's rights were such an issue in the 1930s as they faded into the background after universal suffrage was brought in and only resurfaced in the 1950s and 1960s with Betty Frieden, Gloria Steinem etc all. Having said that though Dorothy L Sayers did apparently publish a book entitled Are Women Human? of which I have yet to track down a copy.