Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

Published: 1991

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 182 pages

Setting: New England, 1840s

Interest: I chose it for our latest American History Club topic on child labor.

Summary: Lyddie’s family is in a bit of trouble. Her father went out West a while ago and they haven’t heard from him since. Her mother has gone a bit touched in the head, and it’s up to Lyddie and her brother Charlie (both still children) to take care of the farm. The mother finds work for them both to pay off their debts and she leaves with the little ones to go to her sister’s. Lyddie is sent to be a maid at a local tavern. She’s working hard everyday with no money or time off. At one point, she’s fed up and heads to Lowell, Massachusetts to be a mill girl. There again, she works hard, not complaining when the mill speeds up or she’s assigned more looms. She’s saving money to pay off the debts on the farm and enjoying the company of other young women. Ultimately, she’s fired because she stops the overseer from harassing another worker.

Final thoughts: I enjoyed this book, even though not much really happens. (It’s a good introduction to literary fiction for kids.) Paterson managed to sneak in many of the problems the workers faced in this time period. I got a good sense of how women and children were exploited in this time period. Turns out, Lowell (where Lyddie went to work in the mills) was the center for organizing the women to push for better working conditions and shorter days. The poor girls would work through daylight, and then have a curfew (since they lived in company houses). Lyddie had to get her little sister (barely six) a job working at the factory, and she immediately started having breathing difficulties because of all the dust in the air. P,us, the women/girls had to worry about sexual harassment from the overseers. There were two incidents mentioned, but no details that weren’t child appropriate.

I was worried about Lyddie’s fate at the end of the book. She had taken charge of her life so well, but got fired because she stood up for another girl against the overseer. Now, she had nothing left and it looked like she’d be stuck marrying the neighbor boy. He was nice and had kept up the farm for her, but it still seemed like such a let-down from what she had accomplished so far. That’s why I was so excited she decided to go to the women’s college mentioned earlier in the book.

Title comes from: The main character

Reading challenges fulfilled: 11/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, and an L in my Title Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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1 Comment

Filed under Book review

One response to “Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

  1. Pingback: Weekly Wrap-Up: Child Labor | Fill Your Bookshelf

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