Based on the novel by Francis Gray Patton, a school teacher faces a health crisis and remembers her career teaching students and others.
In the town of Liberty Hill the teacher Miss Dove (Jennifer Jones) walks to school and advises a man spraying his plants. Each child says, “Good morning, Miss Dove,” as they walk into her classroom. She disciplines students for minor infractions. She notices a pain in her back, and she asks David, held after class, to call his father to get a doctor.
Young Miss Dove returns to Liberty Hill, and her father welcomes her home with a precious book about Marco Polo. She says she met an archaeologist named Wilfred Banning Pendleton at Princeton. Suddenly her father dies. In his office Mr. Porter (Robert Douglas) tells Miss Dove that her father “borrowed” $11,430 from the bank and that all his possession are fully mortgaged. She says she will repay the loan by teaching geography. She asks him to arrange a personal loan.
Miss Dove writes to Mr. Pendleton that she can not receive him. Pendleton (Marshall Thompson) receives the letter and comes to visit her. He explains his Carnegie fellowship in Tibet and Kashmir. He asks her to come with him. She says they have much in common, and he asks her to marry him. She gets a call from Mr. Porter that her job is arranged at the school. She says her future is in Liberty Hill, and he leaves.
Dr. Thomas Baker (Robert Stack) and Reverend Alex Burnham (Biff Elliot) come to help aged Miss Dove. She describes her symptoms, and Dr. Baker says she must go to the hospital immediately. They carry her in a sitting position to the hospital. Nurse Billie Jean Green (Peggy Knudsen) was in her class and takes care of her. Miss Dove corrects her speech. Billie Jean says she has been a widow for five years. She says policeman Bill Holloway admires Miss Dove, who says he always had an ethical instinct.
Two mothers bring their children to her class, and they are worried about the influence of Bill Holloway. At home Bill tells his grandmother he has a little job. He comes to class late. He works in her yard, and Miss Dove serves him lunch on a tray. Bill graduates with perfect attendance from elementary school. He thanks Miss Dove for his suit. When his grandmother dies, she visits Bill (Chuck Connors). She gets letters from Bill in the army with increasing ranks. They have tea as soon as he gets back, and he says he wants to finish school and become a police officer.
Dr. Temple takes Miss Dove’s history by asking her questions. She says she has experienced fantasy that day. Virginia Baker (Kipp Hamilton) comes in to wish Miss Dove good luck.
A year ago Miss Dove is worried about Virginia at graduation. Virginia comes into her empty classroom and talks to Miss Dove. She says she flunked out of the university and got a job. Miss Dove tells her to do her duty. She says how she was courted, and she is to be married. She cries and says her heart is broken. Miss Dove advises her to thank God she escaped a dishonorable alliance. Virginia thinks of becoming a nurse. Tom Baker comes in and offers her a ride.
Dr. Baker comes in, and Miss Dove asks her condition. He says he is giving her tests. At school Mr. Spivey replaces Miss Dove in geography, and he uses sports metaphors. Tom checks on his pregnant wife Virginia. He says how Miss Dove helped him when he was adrift in the Pacific. Miss Dove gets x-rays and other tests. Miss Dove tells Billie Jean there are too many flowers in her room, and the nurse takes some to others. Billie Jean writes a thank-you letter to Mr. Porter for the flowers. Billie Jean confesses that she is not married and has a child. She says she was going with Bill Holloway, but the truth came out. She gave the ring back to him.
Billie Jean brings in a model of the school for Miss Dove. Two former students, Fred Makepeace and Maurice Levine (Jerry Paris), come in to visit.
The boy Levine joins her first-grade class; he is from Poland and does not know English. She helps him read after class. After school Levine hides from other boys, and Miss Dove asks him to carry her books. In 5th grade she teaches about Palestine, and they go to the Levines for dinner.
In the hospital Miss Dove says she saw Levine’s new play and criticizes his profane language. Fred says he is on parole for the day. Bill comes in, and Billie Jean leaves. Miss Dove suggests Bill take Fred back to prison after their meal. Miss Dove praises Billie Jean. They leave. Miss Dove reads her chart. Dr. Baker and Mr. Porter come in. The latter says the Rotary Club will pay her medical expenses. She asks what if she declines, and she asks him not to bully her. He says she turned down his proposal. He says she put him in her debt.
During a run on the bank Miss Dove comes in and makes a deposit until the bank closes at three.
Mr. Porter persuades Miss Dove to accept the Rotary Club’s offer. Dr. Baker says a growth on her spine must be removed. She remembers that he had skillful fingers and decides to trust him to do the operation. He says the operation may be long. She gives him her father’s watch, which is in her will. He leaves, and she reads a magazine. Virginia asks how she is feeling and will soon have her baby. Dr. Temple comes in, and she answers his mother’s question about what a red ant tastes like. He goes out, and the minister Alex comes in. She does not believe her sins are intolerable. He suggests they pray silently together.
Dr. Baker begins the operation. In prison Fred asks the time. Mr. Spivey suspends classes for the day. Mr. Porter asks Billie Jean and Virginia what they are doing. Billie Jean inquires. She tells Cub Scouts and Brownies that no children are allowed. She tells them to study for the state geography test. Bill commends her handling of them. Dr. Baker finishes and goes in to see Virginia.
At night people are waiting outside and talk about her. Dr. Temple announces that the lab report will not come until tomorrow. At the police station Bill says Miss Dove has a thousand kids. They get a call that Fred escaped again.
The next day Miss Dove wakes up, and Dr. Baker comes in. He gives her the watch back. She asks about Virginia, and he says she had twin boys. Bells ring, and people are gathered outside her window. Dr. Baker says they announced the news that she is going to be all right. Bill takes ahold of Fred in the crowd. Billie Jean says school was cancelled. Miss Dove tells them to inform Mr. Spivey that the children must return to their classes, and she gives the assignments. Dr. Baker says good morning and goes out to do that.
This sentimental drama depicts the life of a single woman who devoted herself to teaching, showing how she influenced so many people. As Henry Adams wrote, a teacher never sees the final consequences of one’s work. The clarity of her thinking enabled others to learn more effectively.