In this biographical drama Florence Nightingale develops skilled nursing during the Crimean War and saves hundreds of lives.
Mr. Nightingale (Charles Croker-King) gets a letter from the Welfare Committee complaining about the hospital nurses. Florence Nightingale (Kay Francis) is engaged to Charles Cooper (Donald Woods) and treats a dog's leg. Dr. West (Nigel Bruce) defends nurses, but Nightingale investigates. Florence reads her father's reports and decides to be a nurse. She goes to the best nursing school in Germany and works hard. Florence returns as the first trained nurse in England, but Dr. West tells her to get married. When war is declared, Florence volunteers but is rejected. Journalist Fuller reports that nursing is needed. Sidney Herbert (George Curzon) gets her put in charge of organizing nurses, and she hires 39 but rejects flighty Ella Stephens (Ara Gerald).
They arrive in Scutari; Florence reports to Dr. Hunt (Donald Crisp) and finds 1700 men in miserable conditions. Dr. Scott (Henry O'Neill) welcomes her and blames Dr. Hunt for assigning her to those with typhoid. Dr. Hunt sends Dr. Scott to the front. Florence asks Fuller (Ian Hunter) for help and has nurses clean. Dr. Hunt objects to women nurses making the men soft. Florence insists on taking 500 clean shirts after the store is closed. She uses her apron to help Dr. Hunt bandage a man. At night Florence visits all her patients with a lamp. People read Longfellow's poem about her. Florence works all night to save four hopeless cases including drummer-boy Tommy (Billy Mauch). Charles comes to help her but goes to fight in the war. Fuller says the allies need help, and she sends nurses; but married nurses she sends home.
Florence goes to the battlefield, and Dr. Hunt sends for Ella Stephens. At Balaclava Florence tells Dr. Scott they need food; but Dr. Scott won't disobey Dr. Hunt. Nurses are kept out of the hospital, but Florence waits in the snow. Tommy goes to commander Lord Raglan (Halliwell Hobbes), who takes her in. She finds Charles wounded. Lord Raglan changes the policy and investigates Dr. Hunt. Lord Raglan goes to Florence in the trenches and says she has cholera. Soldiers carry her. Dr. Hunt puts Ella Stephens in charge. Florence gets better, and Lord Raglan puts her over all nurses. Sister Colombo (Eily Malyon) goes to Florence, who goes back and tells foolish Ella Stephens to get out. Florence teaches the new nurses.
After two years a reception is planned for Florence, but she directs the money to train nurses. Dr. Hunt tells Bullock (Montagu Love) that Florence's work was successful. Florence thanks Fuller and goes to see Queen Victoria. Bullock tells Florence that she is dangerous to his system. Florence rehearses her speech for nursing and is given a medal.
This generally accurate portrayal of the great nursing pioneer shows how she overcame the stubborn opposition of military men and with her dedication quickly transformed nursing into a respected profession.