We meet Susan as a young lady in a small, closed minded town in the "Western" state of Ohio, just past the turn of the century. (the last century.) She believes a young man that he has fallen in love with her and will run away with her to marry. This was viewed as a terrible scandal by the petty members of the community, "forcing" her guardians to find a farmer for her to marry; a dreadful creature. This is the beginning of her fall, and she falls and falls for some number of years following. She ecapes to a city- was in New York? and makes her way as a well brought up young woman forced to do so in a man's world. Men were essential to women for their livlihood, and a woman without reputation and introduction were cast adrift with dreadful housing, horrible food, terrible job prospects, if they can even be called a job. The gap between rich and poor was tremendous even then, and literally pennies were all that were needed to improve the lot of the "working poor", just as is the case now. The lot of the workers was easily improved, and it was tragic to see how callous the manufacturers were to the needs of their laborors.
Susan, luckily, "rises" but has a talent and ability to develop it that so few have. That she had the opportunity at all was mere chance.