Written in 1893, The Odd Women explores the role of British women in the latter half of the nineteenth-century, especially that of the redundant woman. What do women do when marraige isn't an option? What is natural for women? If woman's practical desire is to survive in any way that she can, how can this be achieved? The novel is titled after the millions of Victorian women left without a male partner. Their "odd" lifestyle can either be understood as an identity that is assigned by the lack of male partners or a choice one can make. The novel explores both possibilities, but one aspect of the plot (Rhoda's decision not to marry Everard) is a strong example of the latter.
Gissing's novel explores the financial and moral concerns for women in such a position while introducing a powerful feminist angle through the character of Rhoda Nunn. With the death of a father as the catalyst for a period of transition in a group of women's lives, Rhoda assumes the role of the male leader. This arrangement allows Gissing to present a narrative of strong women who deserve respect.