20-year-old Violet Hayes is distressed to learn that her father is
remarrying and that her mother, whom Violet believed lay recovering from
a mysterious illness in a sanitarium somewhere, had in fact simply
abandoned her family and filed for divorce.
To escape a stepmother-to-be
she can’t stand, Violet heads to Chicago to stay with her grandmother
and great-aunts. Although she’s recently graduated from a genteel school
for young ladies, it’s in Chicago that Violet’s real education begins.
One great-aunt tries to persuade her to join the suffrage movement,
while another introduces Violet to elite society and urges her to catch a
wealthy husband. Her grandmother, who takes her cues from Jane Addams,
introduces Violet to the world of revivalist Christianity and inner-city
good works, prompting Violet to re-examine her own faith.