Top Girls is a 1982 play by Caryl Churchill.
Marlene, a London businesswoman, hosts a dinner party at a nice restaurant to celebrate a recent promotion. Her guests are not friends, family members, or coworkers; however, they are women plucked from history, art, and myth. Among them are Isabella Bird, a nineteenth-century writer, explorer, and naturalist; Lady Nijo, a thirteenth-century concubine who became a wandering Buddhist nun after she fell out of favor at court; Dull Gret, the subject of a Flemish renaissance painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder; Pope Joan, a woman who disguised herself as a man and was appointed Pope in the Middle Ages; and Patient Griselda, a character from the stories of Boccaccio and Chaucer, whose obedience to her husband in the face of horrible mistreatment made her the stuff of legend. As the dinner party unfolds, the women eat ravenously, grow deeply intoxicated, and talk over one another as they share the stories of their often-painful lives. The women discuss motherhood, love, abuse, and disappointment, and as strikingly similar coincidences emerge, it becomes clear that all of these women’s sufferings stem from the crushing violence of a life lived on the terms of the patriarchy.
The following Monday, Marlene is back at her job at the Top Girls Employment Agency, interviewing a woman named Jeanine who hopes to be placed in a job that will pay more money and offer more opportunity for advancement. When Jeanine reveals that she’s saving money for a wedding, Marlene discourages her from sharing her plans with any prospective employers, as her preparation for a role as a wife and, ostensibly, a mother will hurt her chances of getting hired.