Lyddie is upset because her fellow factory girls want her to sign a petition for workers’ rights. She doesn't sign even as conditions get more dangerous, and eventually she gets hurt.
The main characters in this chapter are Lyddie and Diana. Lyddie is a factory worker who is trying to raise money to pay off her family’s debts. Diana is a friend of hers who has been at the factory for fifteen years and is part of the movement for a ten hour work day. Betsy and Amelia are others friends of Lyddie’s, also factory workers.
Factory work is not easy. Lyddie does not want to do anything that will cause trouble. Her friend Diana is an organizer for a worker’s rights movement, but Lyddie does not want to be involved.
She liked Diana, really she did, yet she found herself avoiding her friend as though radicalism were something catching, like diptheria. She knew Mr. Marsden was beginning to keep track of the girls who stopped by Diana's looms. She could see him watching and taking mental note. (Ch. 13)
Even though Diana is her friend, she finds herself avoiding her. She shouts at Diana when she invites her to a meeting of the organization, and feels bad about it. She wants to tell Diana that the reason she can’t get involved is because she needs the job. She is responsible for her family.
Lyddie even refuses to look at the special newsletter that Diana’s group puts out. Betsy makes a comment out this.
"Leave Lyddie alone, Betsy. You'll only get her into trouble."
"Never fret, Amelia. Our Lyddie loves money too much to risk trouble." (Ch. 13)
Lyddie is embarrassed because she doesn’t think they understand why she needs the money. She is not being greedy, she is just worried about her family. She refuses to think of herself as a slave. She feels like working in the factory has given her a measure of control over her life since her father left.
Lyddie sends a letter to her mother promising her more money. She worries about her mother, who has not been the same since her littlest sister Agnes was born and their father left. She also worries about her little brother Charles, who works at a mill.
In a letter to Charles, Lyddie writes that she wants to try to get the farm back so the family can be together again. Lyddie works hard, and is able to keep up with the machine speedup. The overseer Mr. Marsden adds a fourth loom to her workload.
Although she was never able to go to school, Lyddie tries to educate herself with a copy of Oliver Twist. She is surprised when she learns that Amelia wants to go to college.
Things are getting so bad that any girl who does not desperately needs to money leaves. They are immediately replaced. There are girls who get sick and even serious injuries and deaths, but Lyddie does not have much pity.
Diana took up a collection for the hospital fees, but Lyddie had no money on her person. Besides, how could she give a contribution to some foreigner when she had her own poor baby sister to think of? She vowed to send her mother something next payday. (Ch. 13)
All Lyddie can think about is her family. She worries about her two younger sisters and her mother. She just keeps working. The girls rarely get a day off, and do not get holidays. Lyddie keeps working until one day she injuries herself on the loom, with a shuttle causing a gash in the right side of her head. Lyddie doesn’t even want to leave work with blood gushing. Diana asks for her to be taken to Dr. Craven, and he turns out to be the father of Diana’s baby.