Eager to escape life on her family's farm, Alice Barrow moves to Lowell in 1832 and throws herself into the hard work demanded of the mill girls. In spite of the long hours, she discovers a vibrant new life and a true friend--a saucy, strong-willed girl name Lovey Cornell. But conditions at the factory become increasingly dangerous, and Alice finds the courage to represent the workers and their grievances. Although mill owner, Hiram Fiske, pays no heed, Alice attracts the attention of his eldest son, the handsome and reserved Samuel Fiske. Their mutual attraction is intense, tempting Alice to dream of a different future for herself. This dream is shattered when Lovey is found strangled to death. A sensational trial follows, bringing all the unrest that's brewing to the surface. Alice finds herself torn between her commitment to the girls in the mill and her blossoming relationship with Samuel.