Women have only 3 different roles in the book: A wife/mother, an actress or a prostitute. They are not valued because they are not physically strong, and in the depression, those who could work were viewed with higher respect. In fact, they are not even supposed to be seen on the ranch. "ain't no place for a girl" You could talk about the ways that Steinbeck shows this in the text.
Curleys wife is the only main female character. This at once highlights her status as an outcast- she has no one similar to relate to. The ranch men cannot percieve her as a real human being, and don't try to understand her, they simply mark her off as a tart. Explore the limited attitudes towards women- they seem to group all women into a few different roles.
Also mention the other references to women in the text: Aunt Clara, Suzy and the prostitutes and what they show about women in the 1930s. Of Mice and Men is set in a male environment where there are three types of women: the imagined nice girl for settling down, the prostitutes for a drink and a trick, and Curley’s wife, who is their daily representation of what to expect from the other sex. Women are a kind of absent symbol, only there to highlight the men’s failings: the men of the ranch can’t settle down, so they go to whorehouses. As the "girl next door" type is only a fantasy, the men basically reduce the women around them to sex. As George states, at least with prostitutes, "you pay for what you get." While Curley’s wife is a sexual object, she can’t actually provide any sex (because she’s taken) – all she can really offer is trouble.