Lyddie takes place in the middle of the nineteenth century. Industrialization is in full swing, and women of the period have to be incredibly tough people. Readers can see this already in chapter 1, when Lyddie and her family have to take care of the house and surrounding property because Lyddie's dad left (to hopefully make a fortune). That leaves Lyddie's mother all alone to take care of the house and children. Lyddie helps out a ton by cooking, cleaning, making sugar and syrup, and washing clothes. An argument could be made that Lyddie has to do this because her mother leaves too, but Lyddie is still working incredibly long hours doing the same thing at Cutler's tavern. Moving to the mills and working there seemed like a wonderful opportunity for Lyddie. In some ways, it is—she gets paid a fairly decent wage for her work—but she (and the other girls) are working extremely hard in a very dangerous environment for long hours. The girls are treated like interchangeable parts of the factory itself, and things are bad enough at one point that Lyddie's roommates liken their situation to slavery. Lyddie is adamant that she is not a slave, but it is clear that factory owners think that they can do what they want with the girls. Mr. Marsden so firmly believes this that he feels entitled to sexually take advantage of the young girls he employs. The girls themselves have almost no recourse whatsoever against his advances, because they risk being blacklisted and forced out of work.