- Summaries (2)
Blacksmith's daughter Sarah Burton returns to her native Yorkshire, after twenty years' teaching in London and South Africa, for an interview to be head mistress of Kiplington Girls' School. Her idealism impresses kindly Alderwoman Mrs. Beddows and socialist Joe Astell but dour farmer Robert Carne opposes her eventual appointment. He has a withdrawn young daughter Midge, whom Mrs. Beddows persuades him to enroll at Sarah's school. After an awkward first day Midge comes to like Sarah and is befriended by Lydia Holly, a very bright girl who lives in the Shacks, a shanty town Joe is hoping to clear in order to build a modern housing estate for the residents. Councillor Anthony Snaith supports him but tells Joe that Carne is against them. Sarah seeks help in modernising the school building from another councillor, Huggins, a hypocritical lay preacher who is about to be forced to pay money to Bessy, a girl he has impregnated. Despite his initial antipathy, Carne comes to respect Sarah after she has helped him deliver a calf when her car runs out of petrol near his farm. The next day he goes to visit his wife Muriel in an institution.
After 20 years of teaching, Sarah Burton returns to her home of South Riding in Yorkshire having applied for the position of headmistress at the local school, Kiplington's Girls' School. She has a passion for teaching and wants to inspire "her" girls to reach beyond their grasp. She makes a good impression with most of the selection committee but one member, Robert Carne, thinks she's a socialist who will only give the girls - his daughter included - ideas that are not consistent with their station. He is outvoted however and she soon takes up her position inspiring the girls as promised. Two in particular, Carne's daughter Midge and Lydia Holly who lives in the slum district, particularly catch her eye as young women of promise. Many in South Riding have their own secrets, including Carne and a local municipal councilor.
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