The achievement of the Findlater sisters deserves reassessment on two grounds. Firstly, the quality of their work is remarkably high, and at best as good as anything written by the finest women fiction writers from Ferrier and Oliphant to Carswell and the modem revival of Scottish women's fiction; and secondly, they represent with unusual clarity and articulation their awareness of their predicament, and their paradoxical response to it. Their particular problems were those of the intelligent upper-class woman writer in Scotland at a very significant juncture, the transition from the social and personal values of the Victorian eras to the post-Great War. They exemplify the profound and paralysing internal debate concerning sexual and gender freedoms more strongly than any other woman writer in Scotland from the period of Margaret Oliphant to that of the modem ‘Scottish Renaissance’. Sometimes this exemplification is conscious and successfully ironic, with a wit that can capture the ridiculous moment or pretentious pomposity with a sardonic penetration or a joyful hilarity. At other times they reveal how deep their social conditioning has been in their rhetoric of propriety and acceptance of conventional boundaries. At all times, however, their writing holds a strong and clear sense of the suffocation of the personality and personal development of women through their subjection to domestic hierarchies and duties, and through the expectation and acceptance of their female and male peers of circumscribed possibilities of sexual expression. This clear sense of circumscription is regularly conveyed in recurrent and powerful images and premonitions of the grave, of ghostliness, of ghastly dreariness, and of suffocation; often set against equally powerful representations of figures of rebellion, not often located in the main protagonists, but in off-centre figures, sometimes Bohemian or gypsy, who are viewed with a complex mixture of attraction and dissociation. They are writers caught between two different worlds, between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries; but at the same time writers who catch and describe the tensions of their own dilemma.
In order to understand where their ambivalence of response originates, it is necessary to appreciate their strange, yet very Scottish background. They were daughters of the Free Church minister at Locheamhead, but they were also closely related to the ancient and titled Scottish family of the Borthwicks.