How does the speed-up affect Lyddie in Lyddie? How does it affect the other girls?    

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lyddie does not complain about the speedup, but she does get hurt and sick.

Lyddie becomes a factory worker after her mother leaves.  She does not last long working at a tavern before she gets fired, and she has learned that she can make more money at the factory.  She needs the money to pay off the family debts so that her family can be re-formed.

Lyddie picks up how to do the factory work quickly.  She is a fast learner and a hard worker.

So it was that when the Concord Corporation once again speeded up the machinery, she, almost alone, did not complain. She only had two looms to tend instead of the four she'd tended during the summer. She needed the money. (Ch. 12)

While many of the other girls are going home because they can’t keep up the pace, Lyddie just keeps taking on more looms.  Many girls are getting sick, and some are just worn out.

Betsy explains why she is considering signing the petition for a ten-hour work day.

"… When I started in the spinning room, I could do a thirteen‐hour day and to spare. But in those days I had a hundred thirty spindles to tend. Now I've twice that many at a speed that would make the devil curse. I'm worn out, Amelia. We're all worn out." (Ch. 12)

No matter how much the machines speed up and how many she is assigned, Lyddie keeps up the pace.  She has become one with the machines.  With four machines to tend, Lyddie has to remain focused on her work.  The overseers get rewards for producing more goods.

As the New England workers leave, they are replaced with Irish immigrants.  These girls live in tenements in a rough part of town.  Rumor is that they work for lower wages.

One day Lyddie gets hurt when a shuttle from the machine hits her right temple.  She does not even want to go home from work.  Diana takes her to her doctor friend.  Later, Lyddie gets very sick.  After many days with a fever she recovers.  Many girls do not.