Why did Uncle Judah bring Rachel to Lyddie?
Uncle Judah brought Rachel to Lyddie because he wished to relinquish responsibility for Lyddie's little sister. He claimed that the responsibility of caring for Mrs. Worthen and Rachel was too heavy for his wife, Clarissa. As a result of their joint decision, Uncle Judah and Aunt Clarissa decided to commit Mrs. Worthen to a mental asylum in Brattleboro. To finance Mrs. Worthen's care, Lyddie's uncle put the Worthen family farm up for sale. Uncle Judah informed Lyddie of his intentions in Chapter 15.
Distressed at the news, Lyddie implored her brother, Charles, to do everything he could to prevent Uncle Judah from selling the family property. However, Charles (being only thirteen years old) was unable to prevent Uncle Judah from fulfilling his desires in the matter. Unexpectedly, Lyddie later received a letter from Quaker Stevens informing her that Charles had approached him to represent the Worthen family interest. Meanwhile, Lyddie suddenly found herself fully responsible for her sister's care and well-being. However, Mrs. Bedlow allowed Lyddie to keep Rachel at the boarding house for more than a fortnight, due to her own sense of compassion for the beleaguered sisters. Later, Mrs. Bedlow made arrangements for Rachel to work as a doffer at the factory.
In Chapter 18, we learn from Luke Stevens's letter that his father had purchased the farm from Lyddie's Uncle Judah. In the letter, Luke shyly asks Lyddie for her hand in marriage. In that same chapter, we also learn that Charles and Rachel were adopted by the Phinneys. So, despite Uncle Judah's actions, Lyddie and her siblings managed to overcome tragedy in their lives.
In chapter 15, Lyddie receives word that a "gentleman" has come to visit her at the boardinghouse, and she thinks at first it might be Charlie. However, it turns out to be Uncle Judah, her mother's sister's husband. Lyddie hardly recognizes him, but as soon as she realizes the man is her Aunt Clarissa's husband, she has a bad feeling. He proceeds to tell Lyddie that her mother has been committed to the insane asylum in Brattleboro. Lyddie objects, saying, "But that's for crazy folk!" Judah explains that caring for Mrs. Worthen was too much for Clarissa. Although Lyddie is angry at her uncle for institutionalizing her mother, saying she could have taken responsibility for her, the fact is that Lyddie's mother had been mentally ill even before she went to live with Clarissa. In chapter 1, readers learn that "truth be told, Mama had gone somewhat queer in the head after their father had left." Since Judah and Clarissa don't want to have to support Rachel financially, or provide care for her that Mrs. Worthen may have provided, Judah brings Rachel to Lyddie to take care of. Lyddie is distressed at first at having the additional burden of supporting her sister, but before long, she becomes very close to Rachel, and Rachel actually saves Lyddie's life by nursing her when she has a severe fever.