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Lyddie is getting more accustomed to factory work, but as she speeds up she gets hurt.
In Chapter 13, Lyddie is becoming more acquainted with being a factory worker. Lyddie is responding to Betsy’s comment that they are all slaves.
She wasn’t a slave. She was a free woman of the state of Vermont, earning her own way in the world. … Lyddie, was far less a slave than most any girl she knew of. (Ch. 13)
Lyddie is proud of her work at the textile mill. She writes home that she is working to pay off her family’s debts. As she gets more accustomed to the mill work, she learns to operate four looms at a time. She is proud of this, and pays little attention when Betsy wants to sign the petition for workers’ rights, and if she is fired for it she will go to college. Unfortunately, Lyddie gets hurt. Diana helps her see a doctor for free.
The company began speeding up the looms. Lyddie was given more looms, because she was a good worker. Unfortunately, she was only human. Lyddie was exhausted. The pace was too much and she got hurt.
One of the elements this chapter shows us is that conditions at the factories were unsafe, especially when the factory managers or owners got greedy and tried to speed up production. As the author points out, they treated the girls like slaves. Some of them, like Betsy, dreamed of getting an education and being more than just factory workers. Lyddie is dependably caught up in her own world, and just trying to get by. She does not think about what Betsy or any of the other girls are thinking. Instead, she is worrying only about herself. Yet, she is also caught up in a vicious cycle of exhaustion that leads to danger. She was only slightly hurt, but it could have been much worse.
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