Chapters 16–19 Summary and Analysis

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Chapter 16

Lyddie hesitantly withdraws some of her money from the bank to pay for Rachel’s boarding, clothing, and shoes. She also continues to struggle with Brigid, who is distracted because of her mother’s illness. Lyddie gives the girl money for a doctor. Things improve after that both with Rachel, from whom Lyddie coaxes a smile, and with Brigid, who is more focused on her work. One day, though, Lyddie discovers that she is burning up and exhausted. At the end of the shift, Mr. Marsden stops her and holds onto her. Lyddie stomps on his foot.

For many days, Lyddie is bedridden with a fever. Dr. Morris, Mrs. Bedlow, and Rachel care for her, but she is only vaguely aware of what is going on around her. When she finally regains full consciousness, Lyddie is extremely weak but immediately wants to get up and go to work.

Chapter 17

Lyddie’s recovery moves much more slowly than she would like. She is far too weak to go back to work, and as she lies in bed, she worries. She has not heard from Charlie, and she writes again in case her first letter was lost. She also wonders what will happen when she returns to work and if she will even have a job after her encounter with Mr. Marsden.

When Diana visits, Lyddie asks her if Mr. Marsden has said anything, and she reluctantly admits what happened. Diana laughs and assures Lyddie that the overseer will say nothing. He is too afraid of his wife. Diana does warn Lyddie to be a bit “more discreet in the future,” and Lyddie hopes her action will be blamed on the fever.

As Lyddie prepares to return to work, Rachel tells her sister that she wants to be a doffer. Lyddie would prefer she go to school and asks her to wait until they hear from Charlie. Charlie does not write, but Quaker Stevens does, promising to speak to Judah on behalf of Lyddie, Charlie, and Rachel. Lyddie tries to convince herself that Charlie has done the right thing by going to Quaker Stevens for help, but now she must make a decision about Rachel.

Mrs. Bedlow agrees to speak to the agent about Rachel’s job, and she is successful. Lyddie takes Rachel to work with her the next day. Lyddie meets Brigid when she gets to the weaving room, and Brigid assures her that she and Diana have covered Lyddie’s looms the best they could. Mr. Marsden says nothing. By the end of the day, Lyddie is exhausted, but each day she becomes a little stronger. As the days pass, though, Rachel develops a cough.

Lyddie tries to tell herself that her sister only has a cold, but deep down, she is concerned and knows she must send her sister somewhere safe. She tries every remedy she can think of, but Rachel’s cough does not go away. She even thinks of sending Rachel to Triphena but cannot bring herself to do it. Then a visitor arrives.

Chapter 18

Lyddie hardly recognizes Charlie, for he is no longer a child. Charlie has good news; he is now a full apprentice at the mill, and the Phinneys treat him as their own son. He goes to school and has a good life. Lyddie feels left out, yet she knows this is best. Charlie also tells Lyddie that Mrs. Phinney has invited Rachel to live with the family as their daughter. Lyddie wants to cling to Rachel but realizes she must let the girl go. Finally, Charlie mentions the farm. Judah will sell it, and there is nothing they can do. Charlie then hands Lyddie a letter from Luke Stevens and the siblings say goodbye.

When Charlie leaves, Lyddie goes upstairs, thinking about Rachel. She stares at her sleeping sister, knowing that she must let Rachel grow up in a family yet loving her more than ever. She pulls out the clothing Mrs. Phinney has sent and prepares it for the next day. She packs Rachel’s things, inscribing a book of verses with their names and the date. Then she lies awake listening to Rachel cough.

The next morning, Lyddie tells her sister that Charlie has invited her to come for a visit. Rachel wants Lyddie to come with her, but Lyddie distracts her with the new dress and bonnet and prospect of a train ride. After telling her sister to be a good girl, Lyddie hurries to work.

A week later, Lyddie opens the letter from Luke Stevens and discovers a proposal of marriage. Luke wants her to return as his wife. Lyddie thinks this means selling herself, and she refuses to be a slave. She throws Luke’s letter into the stove and cries.

Chapter 19

Lyddie is now alone and feels empty, but she is still working as hard as she can. The labor organizers have begun making progress with their resistance, and Lyddie wonders why Diana is not happier about it. Instead, Diana seems grim and sick, and Lyddie realizes that her friend is burdened by something. Lyddie tells Diana that she is thinking about signing the petition, but Diana only says, “Well, we’ll see.”

To try to please Diana, Lyddie attends a labor meeting and learns that she is too late to sign the petition. It has already been submitted, but Lyddie can sign next year. On the way back to their boardinghouses, Diana confides to Lyddie that she must leave Lowell. She is pregnant, and the father is married to another woman. Lyddie asks Diana what she will do. Diana says she will live on her savings and find work, but she must leave so she does not harm the factory workers’ cause. She tells Lyddie she will miss her, and the next day, Diana is gone.


Chapters 16–19 of Lyddie focus on self-sacrificial love. When Lyddie falls ill with fever, the people around make sacrifices for Lyddie out of love. Rachel, despite her own weakness and ill health, cares for her sister day and night. Mrs. Bedlow, Diana, and Brigid all take their turns caring for Lyddie as well. None of them allow their fear of catching the fever to keep them away.

When Lyddie recovers, she demonstrates the self-sacrificial love others have shown her. She tries to discourage Rachel from going to work in the mill, preferring that her sister go to school instead. Lyddie would now rather pay Rachel’s way for her in order to give her opportunities she herself never had. When Charlie arrives with the announcement that the Phinneys want Rachel to live with them, Lyddie’s love is tested to the extreme. She longs to keep Rachel with her, but she denies her selfish feelings for her sister’s sake. Lyddie would rather be lonely than deprive Rachel of schooling and a family. She lets her sister go as cheerfully as she can, never letting Rachel see her pain.

Diana, too, learns something about self-sacrificial love in this section, despite her already  selfless nature. She has made a mistake, becoming romantically involved with a married man and, as a result, expecting his child. Now she must leave Lowell to ensure that she will not diminish the cause of those working to improve the lives of factory girls. Lowell has been her home for many years, but she will start fresh elsewhere so her presence will not give the opposition cause for scorn. Further, Diana intends to keep her child and will work to raise the baby on her own; ultimately she has sacrificed herself and her desires for the well-being of her friends and her forthcoming child.

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