Mary Eliza McDowell is a significant figure in the opening years of social service- along with Jane Addams and Ellen Gates. This story follows only a tiny segment of her life, the days before and during the great Chicago fire, 1871. Few who know Mary McDowell's story know that it was at that time- and in part through her instinctive knowing what to do to help- the spark was lighted that carried her through a life of dedication. Groping a bit to free herself- at seventeen- from her ambitious mother's net, and her own half-liking for the gracious things of life, uncertain whether she wanted to be a missionary to India or a fighter for woman's suffrage, she learned through coming close to people's needs, when the fire levelled all barriers, that service to humanity was her role. Here again- as in Herbert Best's book on page 924- there has been injected a fictional figure, designed to point up the shift of focus. And here again, a somewhat abrupt disposal of that element leaves the reader a bit restive and dissatisfied. This is a less finished piece of writing- the conversations awkward, some of the characters stock, two dimensional, but Mary herself comes through with conviction.