Virginia and Alice Madden are odd women', growing old alone in Victorian England with no prospect of finding love. Forced into poverty by the sudden death of their father, they lead lives of quiet desperation in a genteel boarding house in London. Meanwhile, their younger sister Monica, struggles to endure a loveless marriage she agreed to as her only escape from spinsterhood. But when the Maddens meet an old friend, Rhoda Nunn, they are soon made aware of the depth of their oppression.
“Gissing's The Odd Women (1893) has variously been considered as feminist and also as anti-feminist. Here it will be argued that irrespective of the ideological stance of the novel, it may be seen as a close and realistic rendition of certain feminist issues. This can be observed via an examination of some important statements by Victorian feminists on the subject of ‘superfluous’ women and work. They were concerned, firstly, with the articulation of the problem and its opposition to the ornamental view of women, and, secondly, with practical solutions and their implementation. It is into this second area that Gissing's novel may be seen to fit, providing a close fictional analogy with the activities of the Langham Place Circle.”