The character of Lyddie remains the quintessential "Lowell Factory Girl" due to this very book. Her story, and her spunky nature, begins to be revealed right away in Chapter 1.
We are introduced to Lyddie deep in the rural areas of Vermont because a bear enters her family's little cabin and wreaks havoc. This bear is Lyddie's first obstacle in life and begins to symbolize the other, bigger obstacles she will tackle as she moves toward becoming a "Lowell Factory Girl." It is Lyddie, always showing her spunk, who protects her family by "staring the bear down." Unfortunately, the bear frightens Lyddie's mentally unstable mother enough to make her leave with the babies, leaving Lyddie--and eventually Lyddie's younger brother, Charlie--alone to tend their Vermont farm.
Just as things begin looking up for Lyddie and Charlie, in that they make it through the cold winter months and observe the birth of a calf from their one and only cow, they get a note from their mother saying that she has rented them as workers to other farms in order to pay her debts. Even though their mother also writes, "We can still hope," all hope seems to have vanished by the end of this chapter. Now Lyddie must go out in search of hope for herself.