These chapters take place at the textile mill where Lyddie works.
Lyddie works at this textile mill in order to pay off her family’s debts. The fields, horse, and cow are being rented out. However, the children are also being hired as laborers. Charlie goes to Baker’s Mill, and at first Lyddie is sent to a tavern before leaving to work at the textile mill. Lyddie stays at a boarding house for children who work at the mill.
In Chapter 12, Lyddie has been working at the mill awhile. She is getting used to it. Part of the book takes place at the boarding house, where Lyddie gets Oliver Twist. This book inspires her, because she relates to the story of a struggling orphan. The girls get into an argument over the book, when Amelia calls it silly. Betsy says they have all been working too hard, and she thinks she should sign the factory worker’s rights petition that has been circulating.
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 a devil curse. (p. 91)
The girls are being worked too hard, and their conditions are unsafe. This is why so many of them are coming down with hacking coughs, and even being forced to quit the factory that is their livelihood. In the long run, they will need to get change. But many of the girls are afraid to sign the petition, because they do not want to get into trouble. They are worried that they will lose their jobs or face other repercussions. Factory conditions were very dangerous, and often led to illness and death for many girls and boys.