powered by AFI
In turn of the century New York, Emily Dunning desperately searches for a physician for her pregnant mother. Because they are new to the neighborhood, Emily cannot find an available doctor until someone directs her to a nearby office. Although hesitant because the physician is a woman, Dr. Marie Yeomans, Emily takes her home. Despite everyone's reservations, "Yeomy" successfully performs a caesarian on Mrs. Dunning, earning Emily's sincere admiration. Years later, Emily herself wants to become a doctor. Although Yeomy, who has become a close friend, warns her of the problems a female physician faces, Emily steadfastly begins her studies at Cornell. As a pre-med student, Emily encounters prejudice from most of the male students and professors, but attracts the attention of fellow medical student Ben Barringer. The two fall in love, and on the eve of their graduation, Ben proposes. Emily, who is second in her class, plans to continue studying at Cornell's New York medical college, but Ben, who is going to Harvard, wants her to quit. Despite her love for Ben, Emily refuses to give up her dream, and the two part. Emily lives with Yeomy while attending medical school, but finds that, like Yeomy, she is unable to obtain an internship. A visit to Dr. Seth Pawling, director of New York's Gouverneur Hospital, confirms her fear that women are not wanted by any hopsital. Discovering that Emily was third in her class, Yeomy goes to the hospital commissioner and suggests that public opinion, which favors granting internships to females, might go against him if people knew that Emily was turned down while men with mediocre academic records received jobs. Soon, newspapers announce that Emily is the first female to receive an appointment at a New York City hospital. When she arrives at her assignment at Gouverneur, Pawling tells her that he still feels the same way and warns that she will have a lot of ambulance duty. Later, she is happy to find that Ben is also interning at Gouverneur. Her first night on ambulance duty, New Yorkers are shocked to see a woman doctor, but she wins the admiration of ambulance driver Alec, as well as that of a large male patient whose dislocated arm she sets. Soon, Emily's hard work and dedication wins the respect of female nurses and many of the male doctors who had petitioned against her. She and Ben grow closer and he shows her his experiments in radium, revealing that he wants to pursue a career in research, rather than general practice. Despite Emily's successes, senior intern Dr. Graham will not accept her. One night, when one of the interns cannot take his shift, Graham assigns Emily, even though she has just finished a shift. When Graham examines a comatose male patient, he pronounces him dead and refuses to listen to Emily's suggestion that they might revive him. After Graham leaves, Emily asks her friend, Nurse Jane Doe, to assist her, and together they perform artificial respiration on the man. Working tirelessly, Emily is able to revive him, but knows that he must be kept awake. With the help of many of the nurses, Emily keeps the man walking for hours. One of the nurses is so impressed with what Emily has done that she calls a reporter and tells him the story. Pawling and Ben arrive back at the hospital just as reporters are taking pictures. Sensing Pawling's disapproval, an exhausted Emily lashes out at him and the hospital. Later, Emily tells Ben that she is quitting, but he urges her to stay, saying that Pawling is not the unfeeling person she thinks. When Emily is called into Pawling's office, he compliments her on a job well done and takes Graham to task. On her first Sunday off, Emily and Ben go to the beach together, and he becomes concerned over her questions about Pawling. Ben then asks her to an upcoming party celebrating Pawling's first anniversary as director of the hospital. On the night of the party, Pawling and Emily dance together and Ben suspects that they have fallen in love, even though Emily denies it. Later, Emily talks with Pawling, who says that he admires her as a doctor and a woman. As they are talking, Ben interrupts to report that two cases of typhoid have just been brought into the hospital. For days, the hospital is pushed to capacity coping with the epidemic. More doctors are requested, and Yeomy is assigned to Gouvernour. Emily is delighted to have her old friend stay with her, and Pawling and Ben come to realize that Yeomy, whose books he had read, not realizing she was a woman, is an excellent doctor. As the crisis passes, Ben reveals to Emily that he has received a fellowship to study in Paris. Emily confides her anxiety to Yeomy, who tells her that she should not deny herself a personal life. Yeomy also tells Ben not to give up too easily on Emily. A short time later, Emily is summoned when Yeomy collapses in one of the wards. By the time Emily arrives, Yeomy has died from a long-standing heart condition. Pawling tells Emily how much he had grown to admire Yeomy, then uses words similar to Yeomy's, encouraging Emily not to ignore her personal life, as he had done. A few moments later, Emily sees Ben in the hallway as he is about to leave for Paris. While talking, they suddenly kiss and admit that they have always loved each other. Emily then tells Ben to leave, but promises to wait for him.