Adapted from Anne Austin's novel, a mother kills her husband to protect her son and starts a new life, raising her children to take care of themselves.
Ed Trice (Paul Harvey) wants to take Curtis as he flees the sheriff, but his wife Naomi Trice (Mady Christians) stops him by shooting him. Naomi has a baby, and Curtis brings Gram. The Sheriff (DeWitt Jennings) asks Naomi where Ed is but sees the baby and leaves. Naomi works in a textile factory and has her children help at home. Yancey ruins dinner and cries. Naomi catches Rosanne lying and burns her doll. Rosanne and Naomi both cry, but Curtis understands she is teaching them. The Sheriff comes looking for Ed again. Naomi tells her children their father is dead, and she takes them far away and uses her maiden name. They work, and she studies at night school.
Ten years have passed. Naomi tells Neddie (Georgie Billings) not to play with guns, and she won't let Rosanne (Jean Parker) go out, because Bill Renton (Robert Taylor) kept her out late. Curtis (William Henry) invites his boss Pat Naylor (Charles Bickford) for dinner. Pat warns Naomi about sacrificing and thanks her. Rosanne sneaks out. Neddie tells Naomi that he wants Pat to live there. Naomi asks Pat not to spoil her children. Peter (Sterling Holloway) fixes the radio for Yancey (Betty Furness) and asks her out. Naomi tells Rosanne she has been out too much. Curtis interviews a man at a bar and comes home drunk, telling Naomi to marry. Pat proposes, and Naomi admits she loves him but asks for time. Naomi can't find Rosanne. Bill brings her home at 4 a.m., and Naomi scolds her. Rosanne says she is no longer afraid of her mother and leaves. Rosanne wants Bill to marry her, but he says his job won't let him. Curtis makes Rosanne leave and fights with Bill but is knocked down stairs. Rosanne cries about Curtis but tells Naomi that she does not feel guilty.
Pat tells Naomi that they are going to operate on Curtis. Naomi prays for Curtis and makes a promise. After five days Curtis regains consciousness. Peter tries to help Yancey cook. Naomi asks Pat to watch her children while she is gone. Her children say good-bye, and Naomi leaves on a train. In her trial Naomi says she was defending her children, but she will not say where they are. As the judge instructs the jury, her children arrive. Curtis testifies that his father beat them and that his mother was protecting them. In the final scene a wedding takes place.
This tough drama shows a mother struggling to raise her four children alone so that they will be able to survive without her, sacrificing her feelings to instill firm discipline.