Falsely accused by Norma Greenman of having an affair with her husband, Edward 
Falsely accused by Joan Greenman of killing her mother, Norma 
Near Rev. Dr. Ruthledge and his church was a secondhand store owned by Abe Kransky, an Orthodox Jew, and his family. The Kranskys, who lived in tenement housing, had two children, Rose and Jacob. Rose was restless and hated her life in the Chicago suburb of Five Points. Rose’s best friend was Mary Ruthledge, who, in reality Mary was not that much better off. Yet Mary had the understanding father that Rose did not, and Rose poured out her frustrations to Rev. Ruthledge.
Rose wanted to go to night school to study shorthand and have a career as a secretary, while her father wanted her to get married and raise a family. Rose felt that her old-fashioned parents would never adapt themselves to the ways of modern American life. Dr. Ruthledge told her that there was no reason for her not to pursue her dreams and he interceded on Rose’s behalf but lending her the money to begin her schooling. Although her father kept pushing eligible young men at her, Rose found them all rough-edged and silly. When she finished her education, Rose went to work as a stenographer for Cunningham Publishing Company. Then one day, Charles Cunningham's secretary, Helen Ryder, attempted suicide. It was whispered in the office that Charles had thrown Helen over in favor of marrying a rich society woman. Rose stepped into Helen's job and her career took off.
About a year later, Charles confided to Rose, who he had hired as his personal secretary at the Publishing Company that his marriage to Celeste was not a happy one and Rose found herself falling in love with her boss. They had an affair and Charles promised Rose that he would divorce Celeste and marry her. Celeste countered with naming Rose as correspondent, and the newspapers had a field day with the scandal. Charles gave in to the pressure and lied to the court that he had never had anything to do with Rose. Added to Rose's grief was the sudden death of her father. When Rose found that she was pregnant, her old friend, Ellis Smith, stepped in to the rescue.
Ellis Smith was a strange man. He was cynical, remote, and more than a bit of a mystery. In fact, the people of Five Points referred to him as "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere." Ellis had been born into a wealthy family but rebelled against their extravagant ways. Ellis finally broke with his father over Ellis's dream of becoming an aartist. After drifting aimlessly for years, Ellis settled to live in virtual poverty in the town of Five Points. Gradually, he discovered that the town was not a community of parasites, but rather that the people were strong individuals who created their own destinies. Becoming reacquainted with Rose, changed his life. Rose’s zest for life fascinated him and he began painting again. When Rose found herself pregnant, Ellis came forward and proposed marriage. Rose appreciated the offer, but bravely decided to bring up the child on her own.
During her first four months of pregnancy, Rose landed a job as a personal secretary to businesswoman, Doris Cameron and left for a while, only keeping in contact with Mary Ruthledge and Mary's soon to be mother-in-law, Frances Holden. When Mary told Rose that her widowed mother had fallen on more difficult times, Rose left Doris's employ and Rose returned to Five Points. Suddenly, Charles Cunningham reentered her life to complicate matters. After Charles ditched his wife, and the scandal subsided, Charles proposed that he and Rose marry in order to give their new son, Johnny, legitimacy. However, one week before the planned wedding, tragedy struck. One of Jacob’s friends left the gate to the Kransky's yard ajar. Little Johnny wandered out into the street and was struck by a car and killed. Distraught, Rose called off the wedding ... she didn't need Charles's nobility or pity ... and vowed to make a new life for herself.
Shortly thereafter, when her mother's health and finances improved and Jacob got older and was able to live on his own, Rose went to work as governess for the two children of wealthy, unconventional Edward Greenman. Edward was not happy in his marriage to the unstable, possessive Norma, but he was content enough to continue his marriage, losing himself in his business. However, when he saw the affection that Rose showered on his children, Ronnie and Joan -- nurturing that Norma seemed incapable of -- Edward found himself falling in love with Rose. Although Rose and Edward's relationship was platonic, Norma became violently jealous. The discovery that Norma's irrationality was due to a brain tumor brought nothing but unhappiness for Rose and Edward for some time to come. Norma underwent brain surgery,, was cured, and tried to pull her life together, her jealousy of Rose waning. Eventually, Norma opened a nursery school, but one day a student was spotted drowning in a freezing lake, and Norma plunged into the icy waters to rescue the child. Afterwards, Norma contracted pneumonia and died of a heart attack the night after her release from the hospital.
Norma and Edward's fifteen-year-old daughter, Joan, could not accept her mother's death and blamed the entire mess on Edward and Rose. Reading her mother's diary, Joan became neurotically convinced that Edward had had Norma killed so that he could marry Rose. Joan ran away to her maternal grandparents, the Levines, to tell them her fears. Edward, feeling very guilty, burned the diary, making it seem that he had some culpability in Norma's death. With Edward's situation desperate, the Greeman's nurse, Laura Martin, admitted it was her irresponsibility that led to Norma's death. Quite ashamed of herself, Joan admitted her mistakes to Dr. Ruthledge, and Rose and Edward were eventually wed.