With a growing number of young women being arrested on morality charges, and no one to defend them, it’s up to Under Sheriff Constance Kopp—based on a real-life female deputy—to ask the tough questions.
In 1916 Bergen County, New Jersey, the papers are still aflutter over the recently hired Under Sheriff in charge of the women's section at the Hackensack jail (Lady Cop Makes Trouble, 2016, etc.). So much so that Constance is receiving a steady stream of marriage proposals, which her sister Norma answers with steely reserve and a welcome hint of sarcasm. People can’t take in her new badge without commenting, so imagine the attention Constance draws when she goes beyond the call of duty to help 18-year-old Edna Heustis, recently arrested on a charge of waywardness filed by her own mother when she left home to work at a factory making parts for the war. Detective John Courter, representing the prosecutor's office, insists that the girl be sent to a reformatory until she's 21, but luckily for Constance, his single-mindedness leaves him unprepared for her defense of Edna's good character, which she proves in front of a judge after having conducted her own investigation. But there are more girls where Edna came from, including Minnie Davis, who may be harder to prove innocent. Through Constance’s diligent investigative work, Stewart details each girl's back story while powerfully representing her longing for the opportunity to lead a purposeful life. Constance's own beliefs come into question, though, when her younger sister, Fleurette—secretly her illegitimate daughter—desires a life on stage and secures a chance to impress Broadway actress May Ward. Constance’s ability to hold her own in male-dominated investigations and courtrooms, as well as her determination to present the facts, makes her a welcome “vision of an entirely different kind of woman,” hopefully with more tales to come.
Lively and admirable female characters emboldened by their circumstances, impeccably realized and given new life by Stewart.