The opponents of women’s higher education in the nineteenth century feared that a university education for women would radically alter the ‘separate spheres’ and ultimately lead to a sexual revolution. This article suggests that in terms of the career biographies of university-educated women, they need not have feared. Drawing on a range of data sources, the article documents the limited, gendered career options that faced graduate women post-1945, despite the increase in both educational and employment opportunities. There remained astounding persistence in sexist assumptions about women’s life-plans; even for the academic elite, the role of wife and mother was never lost sight of. Graduate women negotiated the labour market within the confines of a discourse that emphasized a ‘good job for a girl’ as opposed to a career for a woman.