Eager to escape from her neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks and the home of her tyrannical father, Stella sets her sights on Stephen Dallas, a plant manager from a wealthy family. After a brief courtship, Stephen and Stella marry and have a baby girl named Laurel. As time goes by, however, Stella's loud and vulgar manner and desire for showy clothing begin to annoy Stephen, and she is equally put off by his perpetual lectures on correct behavior. She also begins spending much of her time with Ed Munn, who shares her tastes, although not her bed, further alienating her husband. The couple decides to separate and Stephen soon marries Helen Morrison, a woman of similar background. Although Stella devotes herself to her daughter, she gradually comes to the painful realization that Laurel would have a better life away from her influence. Therefore, she sends her off to live with her father in New York. Laurel becomes the focus for Stella, and she vows that no sacrifice will be too great for her daughter.
This film tends to suggest that women should fill the role of motherhood and the perfect wife. Our society feels that things such as trying to step up in society and class should not fascinate a woman that has a child. A good example is when Stella tries to meet new people at the party that are in the higher social class. She tries very hard to fit in with the way she portrays herself and by what she wears. Coming from a low class family and being poor, her main goal was to marry someone the opposite so she can fit in. Unfortunately, everything went the opposite, because the man she met, who was successful, rich and in the higher social class liked her exactly for who she was. The roles do not change much in different class or ethnicity. A good example is the Ms. Morrison who was portrayed as the ideal women in the 1930's. She was rich, elegant, sophisticated with good morals and a good family life.