In 1933, eight young female friends graduate from Vassar College. The book describes these women’s lives post-graduation, beginning with the marriage of one of the friends, Kay Strong, and ending with her funeral in 1940. Each character struggles with different issues, including sexism in the work place, child-raising, financial difficulties, family crises, and sexual relationships. Nearly all the women's issues involve the men in their lives: fathers, employers, lovers, or husbands. As highly educated women from affluent backgrounds, they must strive for autonomy and independence in a time when a woman’s role is still largely restricted to marriage and childbirth. The plot is influenced by the political and economic atmosphere of the time. Over the course of the book, the reader learns about the women’s views on contraception, love, sex, socialism, and psychoanalysis.