Oberlin, Ohio, in the 1840's is the setting for a quiet and thoughtful story of the Potter family- George, his sisters, Sarah and Lolly, and their mother. The widow of an Oberlin professor, Mrs. Potter has nurtured her children in the ideals of education- especially education for women and minorities. But theirs is a small nucleus in a community whose other inhabitants do not necessaryly agree. Through an accident, the Potters come to care for young Stella Smith, daughter of a widower who has left her in charge of her grandparents. The elder Smiths have been far too protective of the ""delicate"" girl, but, through the Potters, Stella gets a new lease on life. Her father falls in love with Sarah, who teaches, and by the time they plan to marry, Lolly has strengthened her determination to become a doctor and George has decided to stay in Oberlin and fight for the ideals of education too.