Mary Whitney played an important role in the development of Grace’s character. Upon Grace’s arrival at the Alderman Parkinson household, Mary immediately embraced her as a friend and taught her what she needed to know to survive as a live-in servant. Mary also looked after Grace with the concern of a surrogate mother, as when she helped her navigate the fear and anxiety that arose when Grace got her first period. Overall, Mary provided Grace with a sense of comfort and grounding that enabled her to move on from the traumas of her young adulthood and mature into a strong woman. Mary also had an outspoken personality, and she expressed strong views that made a deep impression on Grace’s own attitudes. For instance, Mary taught Grace that wealthy homes are designed to separate the family from the servants, imposing a hierarchy that keeps the family in the “front” and the servants in the “back.” But Mary reversed this hierarchy, suggesting that the back stairs enabled the servants to do the real work of the house, and the front stairs kept the inept family out of the way. Ever since then, Grace has felt some scorn for the wealthy classes. For an abused and traumatized young woman like Grace, Mary’s strong personality and commitment to helping Grace were a lifeline, and Grace became devoted to her friend.

The tragic story Grace tells Dr. Jordan about Mary once again illustrates the despicable behaviors of men. The circumstances of Mary’s death strike the reader as especially tragic given that Mary had previously expressed to Grace her longstanding distrust of wealthy gentlemen, whom she considered selfish and quick to betray women. Not long after Mary voiced this critique of gentlemen, she herself fell in love with one such gentleman, who got her pregnant but then refused to support her. Whereas his life apparently went on as normal, Mary suffered tremendous anxiety about her reputation and her ability to survive on her own if fired from her job for an unwed pregnancy. Her anxiety led her to the extremely dangerous measure of obtaining an abortion from an unscrupulous doctor, complications from which caused her death. Mary’s death not only represents a profoundly traumatic moment in Grace’s life, but it also clearly showcases the deadly stakes involved in men’s cruel mistreatment of women.