March is first drawn to the slave woman named Grace. He meets her when he is a young man working as a peddler in the southern United States. Grace is a slave to Mr. and Mrs. Clement, who are plantation owners. She is literate, which is unusual for a slave. Grace has learned to read by a sort of necessity, because her mistress had wanted someone to read poetry to her. March admires her kind and tender disposition. She is a beautiful woman and March is physically attracted to her. Grace later states that she feels he likes the idea of her more than her as a person:
He loves, perhaps, an idea of me: African, liberated. I represent certain things to him, a past he would reshape if he could, a hope of a future he yearns toward.
March later leaves and goes north. It is there that he meets Marmee, the daughter of a minister. She is spirited and has strong opinions. March is in awe of her brilliant mind. Like himself, Marmee is a dedicated abolitionist, which he admires. She is courageous and even helps slaves escape north via the Underground Railroad. She has a sharp temper when challenged, which March believes he can help her to control. He describes her temper as "the lawless, gypsy elements of her nature."