Based on Jean Webster's novel, an orphan rebels against discipline but is given a scholarship to college and falls in love with an older man.
Mrs. Lippett (Milla Davenport) is the matron at an orphanage where children are made to work. A policeman finds a baby in a trash can, and Mrs. Lippett names her Judy Abbott.
Twelve years later Judy (Mary Pickford) leads a strike against the daily eating of prunes. She and a boy are removed from the dining room. A jug is thrown over the wall, and they both get tipsy and play. Judy goes into the kitchen and gives out jam.
When the trustees comes to visit, Judy meets cultured Angie Wykoff (Fay Lemport). A sick girl wants her mama, and Judy asks Angie to loan her doll to her. Angie refuses, and Judy steals the doll. Judy is punished as an example by burning her finger. Judy comforts the girl who wants her mama. Judy mends clothes. She serves good food to the visiting trustees. Judy says they give charity without kindness and rob their childhood.
Mrs. Lippett tells Judy that an anonymous trustee is sending her to college. Judy calls him Daddy-Long-Legs and writes to him. She takes a train. At college Julie Pendleton (Betty Bouton) and Sally McBride (Audrey Chapman) are homesick, but Judy is not "asylum-sick." Julie's uncle Jarvis Pendleton (Mahlon Hamilton) is rich. Sally's brother Jimmie McBride (Marshall Neilan) is at Princeton but is bored. Judy plays Juliet, and Jarvis commends her. Dan Cupid says he missed Jimmie and hit Jarvis.
Judy gets a telegram and goes to a farm, where Jarvis comes to fish. Jimmie drives his car to the farm for the summer and comments on the age of Jarvis. Jimmie is arrested for hitting a pedestrian. Judy tells Jarvis that she wants to write a book to pay back Daddy-Long-Legs. She wants a family and says Jarvis can be her grandmother. Judy asks Mrs. Semple (Carrie Clark Ward) what love is, and she says it is a bad habit, worse than measles.
Judy works on her novel, The Tragedy of Love, but publishers reject it. She writes another book and gets a check to pay back Daddy-Long-Legs. Judy graduates but has no family there. Judy is a successful author and is invited to the Pendletons, where she meets Angie again. Jarvis asks Judy to be his wife, but she is afraid to tell him she is an orphan. She asks Jimmie to drive her back to the farm. Judy tells Jimmie that he is not grown up enough to marry her. Jarvis wanders in the rain. Judy writes to Daddy-Long-Legs that she loves a man but is afraid to tell him. Judy goes to meet Daddy-Long-Legs and learns that he is Jarvis. She gets angry at first but then sits in his lap.
In this comedy a girl overcomes miserable circumstances
in her childhood by developing her own spirit of independence.
By working hard she develops her skills and becomes successful;
but she misses not having a family and hopes that she will find
that in marriage.