Mississippi lawyer and Civil War veteran, Basil Ransom, visits his cousin Olive Chancellor in Boston. She takes him to a political meeting where Verena Tarrant delivers a feminist speech. Ransom, a strong conservative, is annoyed by the speech but fascinated with the speaker. Olive, who has never before set eyes on Verena, is equally fascinated. She persuades Verena to leave her parents' house, move in with her and study in preparation for a career in the feminist movement. Meanwhile, Ransom returns to his law practice in New York, which is not doing well. He visits Boston again and walks with Verena through the Harvard College grounds, including the impressive Civil War Memorial Hall. Verena finds herself attracted to the charismatic Ransom.