The Group

The Group was Mary McCarthy’s fifth novel in which she follows the lives of eight fictional Vassar women after they graduate in 1933. Published on August 28, 1963, with a first printing of 75,000, The Group was a sensation. By September 8 it was No. 9 on the New York Times best-seller list for adult fiction, with booksellers ordering 5,000 copies a day. McCarthy’s characters struggle with numerous women’s issues of the time including sexism in the workplace, child-rearing, financial difficulties, family crises, and sexual relationships. As highly educated women from affluent backgrounds, they strive for autonomy and independence in a time when a woman’s role is still largely restricted to domesticity. Over the course of the book, the reader learns about the women’s views on contraception, love, sex, socialism, and psychoanalysis. In an essay McCarthy wrote in 1951 for Holiday magazine, she stated, “For different people … at different periods, Vassar can stand for whatever is felt to be wrong with the modern female: humanism, atheism, Communism, short skirts, cigarettes, psychiatry, votes for women, free love, intellectualism. Pre-eminently among American college women, the Vassar girl is thought of as carrying a banner.”


Read more about The Group here.