Anna Christopherson, a girl abandoned by her seagoing father and, after the death of her mother, reared by farmer relatives in Minnesota. She is a buxom, attractive girl who learns from farm boys the facts of life. In St. Louis, she becomes a prostitute. She goes to New York to join her father, who now is skipper of a coal barge. When her father fights a man who has resolved to get Anna for his own, Anna realizes that men regard women as their property. At the end, Anna, her father, and her lover are reconciled, and Anna is to be married at last.
Chris Christopherson, Anna’s father, a man whose family has paid a dreadful toll in lives to the sea. Chris loves his daughter and sailing ships; he hates steam vessels and especially hates the men who stoke the furnaces in them. He opposes Anna’s lover because he follows the sea in a steamship.
Mat Burke, Anna’s lover, who is rescued from the sea one night when the Simeon Winthrop rides at anchor in the outer harbor of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Burke’s Irish glibness both attracts Anna and makes her suspicious. When Burke, one night after a fight with Chris, learns that Anna has been a prostitute, he calls her names and storms out of her life. When he returns and talks with Anna, however, they realize that they are in love.
Marthy Owen, an old prostitute who lives on the coal barge with Chris. When Chris learns that Anna is leaving St. Louis for New York, he asks Marthy to leave. She consents to move on to someone else because, as she says, Chris had always been good to her.