In Katherine Paterson's Lyddie, which ethnic group is most employed at the Concord Corporation?

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More and more Irish immigrants are coming to work at the Concord Corporation. The factory likes being able to hire the Irish because they don't room in the company boarding houses, so the company saves money by employing them. Even very young children from Irish families work at the Concord Corporation; children as young as seven or eight years old work as doffers.

The Irish families live in a very poor part of town called the Acre, where their homes are nothing more than shacks, despite the fact that the immigrants tend to have large families with up to a dozen children. The Irish are looked down upon because of their poverty, their poor dress, their body odor, their language, and their religion. Lyddie thinks of them as "papists"--meaning that they are Catholic rather than Protestant--a derogatory term Lyddie uses even though she herself is not particularly religious.

Lyddie at first has very little patience for training Brigid, her Irish coworker, not only because she doesn't want to decrease her own production at the factory, but also because she harbors prejudices against her ethnicity. She doesn't like the thought of placing her mouth over the hole of the quill where Brigid has put her mouth. In fact, Lyddie does end up getting sick, presumably from Brigid, whose mother is very ill. This shows how the immigrant population was more prone to illness because of the relative squalor in which they lived. When Lyddie visits Brigid's home after Lyddie gets dismissed, she finds the home to be messy and smelly with only beds to sit on. 

The novel reflects the historical reality of the influx of Irish immigrants during the potato famine from 1845 to 1855. The immigrants lived in slum-like areas of cities, especially in the manufacturing towns of the Northeast. Although they faced extreme discrimination at first, they soon assimilated into American society and became valued members in the same way Brigid shows herself to be a valuable friend to Lyddie. Education helped the Irish families rise out of poverty, and in 1960 the great-grandson of an Irish immigrant who had fled the potato famine, John F. Kennedy, became President of the United States.

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There are many new Irish girls working at the factory.

Lyddie takes the job at the factory when she loses her job at the pub.  She values the job because she desperately needs money for her family, and because she is good at it.  This is why she does not want to take part in the campaign for the ten-hour work day.  Lyddie does not want to make waves.

The factory continues to speed things up, and gives Lyddie more and more machines.  She gets hurt, and gets sick, but Lyddie keeps going.  Her job is very important to her and she is very good at it.  However, many girls have quit.  Just about anyone who can quit does.

The slack is taken up by an influx of Irish girls.  Lyddie is assigned one, Brigid, and teaches her the basics.  Lyddie gets frustrated by having a trainee, but Diana helps out because she is more patient.

As always, many of the New England operatives had gone home. Brigid took on her third loom. More Irish girls came on as spare hands, some of the machines simply stood idle. (Ch. 20)

Brigid may not be as fast a learner as Lyddie would like, but as one of the first Irish girls to come to the factory she becomes the leader and role model for the new ones, especially after Diana leaves to have her baby.

Between them, she and Brigid coached several of the new spare hands, all of them wearing far too much clothing in the suffocating heat. …  Lyddie let it be. She hadn't managed to persuade Brigid to take off her silly capes, how could she expect to persuade the new girls? (Ch. 20)

Lyddie tries to help the Irish girls, but she is not particularly sympathetic to foreigners.  Although Lyddie is not a mean person, she is rather self-centered.  Her focus is on her family, and she does not have much left over for others.  As time goes on, Lyddie becomes more compassionate, especially after Rachel leaves and she has no more family to look out for anymore.

During the Industrial Revolution, there was a great influx of Irish immigrants due to famine in Ireland.  The Irish Potato Famine hit in the middle of the nineteenth century, and many Irish immigrants came to American in search of a better life.  Often they ended up working in the factories, especially young women.  They had no choice.

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