The plight of many women who were unmarried in the theme of this novel written in 1890. Gessing satirizes the idea of these unmarried women as being noble and instead sees them as just unusual. Mary is self-sufficient and runs of school to train female office workers. The Madden sisters have low paying jobs and not much in the way of comforts. When the youngest Madden sister plans a marriage the novel focuses on societies feelings about contemporary beliefs concerning the odd woman's value.