A daughter escapes from the violence of her hillbilly father to found mountain clinics while postponing marriage to the lawyer she loves.
A mountain family blames Doc Bernard (Guy Kibbee) and Ruth Harkins (Josephine Hutchinson) for their baby dying. Doc wants a mountain clinic, but church members reject the idea and Ruth. She tells her pa Jeff Harkins (Robert Barrat) she wants to sell her land, but he makes her read the Bible. At a carnival Ruth meets Paul Cameron (George Brent), but Jeff orders her to go home. Jeff is tried for killing a man on his land. Paul has Ruth identify her father's rifle and gets Jeff to admit it. The jury finds Jeff guilty, and the judge sends him to jail for three months. Ruth can't stay angry at Paul. Doc tells Phoebe Lamb (Margaret Hamilton) he wants to send Ruth to nursing school; but after twenty years Phoebe wants to get married. Ruth gets new things, but Jeff comes in and breaks them. Ruth sold her acre and gives her pa the money, but he slaps her. Phoebe tells Doc that Paul must be warned, but Doc goes fishing with Clem Biggers (Fuzzy Knight). Paul asks Ruth to marry; she says not yet, but she loves him. Ruth tells her ma Meg Harkins (Elisabeth Risdon), who tells her to go marry Paul. Jeff asks Ruth why Paul came; he tells her to marry Tod Miller and whips her. Doc and Phoebe give Ruth money for school, and her ma makes her go.
In New York Ruth lives in a settlement house. Months later Paul takes Ruth out. Evelyn Wayne (Mona Barrie) takes Ruth to an emergency and tells Paul that she is going to help Ruth finance the clinic. Ruth tells Paul she is going back to help children. Doc gets a letter from Ruth with a check paying him back, and Phoebe makes Doc wed her. Doc and Ruth start three clinics. Ruth visits home, but Jeff tells her to get out. Evelyn works at the clinic. Ruth's younger sister Bethy (Marcia Mae Jones) tells Ruth their Pa wants to make her marry Tod Miller. Jeff takes Bethy and tries to whip Ruth; but she fights back, and Jeff dies. Paul says he will defend Ruth, but Evelyn says it is a bad idea. In an outdoor trial Bethy cries out that Tod lied. Paul says the autopsy showed that Jeff died of heart failure; but the prosecutor (Robert McWade) argues that Ruth caused his death. Paul argues that Jeff tried to kill Ruth. The jury finds Ruth guilty and gives her 25 years. Men want her hanged; but women want to save her. At night men wear hoods and break into the jail to take Ruth. Also in hoods Turnbull (Russell Simpson) helps Doc, Clem, and Paul take her in an ambulance to a plane. Another state refuses her extradition, and Ruth finally agrees to marry Paul.
This melodrama contrasts the violence and religious bigotry of uneducated mountain folks with more enlightened medical workers and a lawyer. Perhaps such films might bring some light to the dark corners of society where the ignorant still persecute others they don't understand.