Femme Friday: Celebrating the Women in the Sherlock Holmes Canon and Transformative Works
The Baker Street Babes, a group of women who are Sherlock Holmes fans, put out this short essay collection in 2017, the last year the BBC Sherlock TV show aired.
It’s a terrific idea. Typical of his time, Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t always pay a lot of attention to the women in his Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, there’s Irene Adler, who’s been given too much attention over the years. The first essay here is about her, and it smartly points out that modern recreations too often feel the need to make her a villain or a damsel to make her interesting, when she was that already. The stories at times have various shady, exotic, non-English wives and fascinations, but in some others, the women who are protagonists and crime victims may not even be named.
As an attempt to bring a more optimistic, feminist point of view to the fandom, the group posted a series of appreciations of female characters. Most of the women here are from the original stories, but the book also includes pieces for show characters — including Sally Donovan, Molly Hooper, and Elementary‘s Joan Watson — as well as Mary Russell and a charming piece about Olivia Flaversham. (Don’t recognize the name? She’s the young mouse who brings the case of her missing father to Basil of Baker Street in The Great Mouse Detective.) Pieces on characters such as Mrs. Hudson and Mary Morstan acknowledge the various versions we’ve seen in adaptations over the years.
In its hundred pages, it doesn’t cover everyone. But we get Isadora Klein, one of my favorites, who requires looking at through eyes other than the author’s, and I learned a new way to look at Beryl Stapleton (from The Hound of the Baskervilles). And then there’s a passionate defense of Kitty Winter that wraps up the book.
By highlighting and focusing on these women, I gained new insight and appreciation for the various Holmes stories. Reading these pieces were energizing, and they made me want to dive back into the tales, in all versions.
There are two editions of this book, both available print-on-demand: the black-and-white is half the price of the one with color illustrations.