Three women. Three unprecedented dreams. One learns independence when she is widowed and must lead men. Another desires a career in a man’s field. The third wants only a traditional family—until her husband refuses to pay for their daughter’s college education. In a time of great struggle as well as great opportunities for women, Eva VanValkenburgh is born into a family of strong pioneer women, chief among them her grandmother, Ellen VanValkenburgh, and her aunt, Emily Williams. These women are her role models as Eva grows up in Northern California at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Ellen is pregnant with her third child when a falling tree branch kills her husband. She takes over running his paper mill, and becomes frustrated when she can’t influence city decisions with her vote. But it is 1862, and the women’s vote is decades away.
Emily wants to be an architect, but the state of California denies her application for a license because she is a woman. Together with her partner, Lillian Palmer, Emily must find a way to build her dreams. Then Julia Morgan, who studied in Europe, gets an architect’s license.
Eva expresses her creativity with a camera. She has a small business selling photographs at a local store. When she marries, she gives it up to have a traditional marriage where the wife doesn’t work outside the home. Her husband’s traditional views chafe against the examples of the strong women in her family. Can she model independence for her daughters and still keep tradition?