When 19-year-old Margaret Hale returns to her childhood home in the country after a decade as a lady’s companion, she intends to relish life away from London and think for herself. But after a crisis of conscience, her father relocates the family to England’s industrial north to start anew.
As the workers grow increasingly desperate, Higgins urges them to stay steadfast, but Thornton plots to break the strike. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hale has become seriously ill, and Margaret’s attempt to help her mother ends up placing the young lady in a dangerous position.
Thornton pays a visit to Margaret that leaves them both shaken. As Mrs. Hale’s health declines, she asks Margaret to write to Frederick and urge him to come home despite the legal charges against him. The siblings’ public parting sparks rumors about Margaret.
In need of work, Higgins goes to see Thornton, and the two men come to an understanding. Margaret receives some tragic news that alters her life entirely, while Thornton struggles to keep his mill afloat.