1950 - Seven year old Carol Martin lies encased in an iron lung, struck down by the killer disease, polio. Distraught at her side, her mother, Violet, wonders if this is her punishment - for Carol is the love child who should not have been born. Family of Women is the story of three generations of women: Bessie: scarred by a childhood of poverty in the slums of Victorian Birmingham and left a young widow with four children, is a hard, bullying woman who will go to disturbing lengths to keep her family under her thumb. Violet: one of Bessie's four children, marries young to escape, into the arms of a man whose life will be broken by war, Linda: grows up on a large housing estate in the 1950s with older sister Joyce and her beloved young sister Carol. Intelligent and energetic, she craves education and something more than the life she sees around her. Torn from her longed for place at the grammar school, she gives up hoping for anything better.