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.
Chapter 1 of Lyddie starts off very quickly and with a lot of intensity. Normally, I don't like chapter 1 of most books because you don't get a good feel for the characters until later. Additionally, there isn't generally too much action in chapter 1. This is not the case with chapter 1 of Lyddie. The reader is first introduced to Lyddie and her family on their farm in Vermont. Very shortly after that, a bear enters their cabin and starts wreaking havoc. Everybody runs for cover except Lyddie, who bravely stares down the bear.
Lyddie's mother takes the entire situation as a bad sign. She takes herself and the two youngest children to live at her sister's place. Lyddie and Charles refuse to go. They take care of the farm for the entire winter, and actually manage quite well. They even oversee the successful birth of a calf.
Unfortunately, when spring comes, so does a letter from their mother. Charles and Lyddie are being sold into indentured servitude in order to help pay off family debts. Lyddie is supposed to go to Cutler's Tavern.
Chapter 1 opens with an incident that changes the life of Lyddie and her family. A bear invades their house and, as Lyddie, Mama, and the younger children clamber to safety in the loft, it is clear that Mama is not completely lucid and that thirteen-year-old Lyddie is the one who takes care of everyone. Believing that the bear is a sign that the world will soon be destroyed, Mama decides that they must go to stay at her sister's place so as "to be with the faithful when the end comes." Lyddie and ten-year-old Charlie refuse to go because they still have hope that Papa, who went away when he couldn't make a living for the family on the farm, will return as he promised; so they stay behind and manage quite efficiently to make it through the winter. In the spring, Lyddie and Charlie receive a letter from Mama telling them that she has hired both of them out to pay the family's debts. Lyddie is to go to work at Cutler's Tavern and Charlie at Baker's Mill.