Why are the spinning wheels getting harder and faster to work in Lyddie?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The machines have sped up because the factory is trying to push its workers to increase profits. 

Lyddie works at a textile factory.  From the time she began working there, she has prided herself on increasing her proficiency and therefore increasing her wages.  However, she is also aware of a growing movement by the other workers to organize in order to get better working conditions, including shorter hours. 

"…We're working longer hours, tending more machines, all of which have been speeded to demon pace, so the corporation can make a packet of money. Our real wages have gone down more often than they've gone up. …” (Ch. 12) 

The petition for a ten-hour work day began because the company started pushing its workers, adding more machines per worker and having them work longer hours.  The workers do not make much more money though.  They get paid by the piece, but having more machines makes the work very dangerous.

No matter how fast the machines speeded up, Lyddie was somehow able to keep pace. She never wasted energy worrying or complaining. It was almost as if they had exchanged natures, as though she had become the machine, perfectly tuned to the roaring, clattering beasts in her care. (Ch. 13)

Lyddie desperately wants to make enough money to pay off her family’s debts and get back the family’s farm.  Her family has been separated since her father left, but now Lyddie and her little brother Charles are both working to pay off debts.  It doesn’t bother Lyddie that the machines have sped up or that she has more machines to tend because she just wants to make more money.

Lyddie will not sign the petition.  She does not want to lose her job.  More and more of the girls leave, unable to keep up.  Some get sick or hurt.  Lyddie gets both sick and hurt, but she keeps working. She is very determined.