What happens and how does Lyddie react when she goes to sign the petition in Lyddie?

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When Lyddie goes to sign the petition, she learns that it has already failed.  She is devastated.

When Lyddie first hears of the factory workers’ petition, she does not want to sign it.

"But we'd be paid less." Couldn't Betsy understand that? "If we just work ten hours, we'd be paid much less." (Ch. 12)

Betsy tells her to think about the big picture, saying that her time is “is more precious than money.”  The petition in question is from Diana Gross.  She is a member of the Female Labor Reform Association.

The girls are afraid to ask for their rights.  They assume, as Amelia says, that they will lose their jobs if they complain or if they sign the petition.  Lyddie is upset because she needs the money to pay off her family’s debts.  She refuses to be a slave, but she is working because she needs to.  It is her mindset that matters to her.

Unfortunately, Lyddie injures herself on the job.  She wants to go to work even though she has a bad cut and part of her head is shaved.  She didn’t even want to leave work when she injured herself.  Even with this, Lyddie is still refusing to sign the petition.  She is angry at Betsy when she does.  However, when Betsy gets sick and loses all of her savings, Lyddie considers it.

When I'm ready to go myself, she thought, maybe I could sign that cussed petition. Not for me. I don't need it, but for Betsy and the others. It ain't right for this place to suck the strength of their youth, then cast them off like dry husks to the wind. (Ch. 14)

Just when Lyddie feels that she has almost all of the money she needs and can sign the petition, she gets a visit from an uncle she barely remembers.  He tells her that her mother has been sent to an asylum.  Lyddie is upset, because she did not feel that her mother was actually crazy.  He tells her he is selling the farm, and drops off her little sister, who is weak and seems more dead than alive.  Lyddie is horrified.  It feels like everything she has worked for is gone.

Lyddie finally decides to sign the petition, for Diana, and goes to find her at an association meeting.  There she learns that the petition has already been submitted. They tell her she can try again the next time.  Lyddie is devastated.

Lyddie stood there, openmouthed, looking from Diana's thin face to the other woman's robust one. Too late. She'd come too late. She was always too late. Too late to save the farm. Too late to keep her family together. Too late to do for Diana the only thing she knew to do. (Ch. 19)

Learning that Diana is going to have a baby, but can’t marry the father, is another blow to Lyddie.  Her friend had to leave, and Lyddie feels as if she was too late to do the only thing that she could for her.

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Lyddie goes to sign the petition for better working conditions in Chapter Nineteen.  By the time this chapter rolls around, Lyddie is already feeling fairly depressed.  In the previous chapter, Charlie tells her that their family farm has been sold.  He also tells Lyddie that the Phinneys want to take care of both Charlie and Rachel.  The result is that Lyddie is left feeling utterly alone.  Without her family and the farm, she feels lost.  She feels as if her work no longer has a purpose.  If Lyddie signs the petition, it offers her a goal and some purpose again.   

When Lyddie goes to sign the petition, she is told that she is too late.  The petition has been sent in.  Lyddie's reaction is utter devastation.  She feels that all of her efforts have been too late.  She wasn't able to sign the petition in time, she wasn't able to earn enough money to buy the farm back in time, and she wasn't able to provide enough care for Rachel in time.  Lyddie's general feelings of being lost and purposeless only increase after discovering that she is too late to sign the petition.  

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