She was no better than a slave, Lyddie thought. The dept-ridden farm had been let to neighbor, and she and her brother had been hired out. Was the end really near, as their mother had said when she fled with the babies after the hungry bear had broken into their Vermont farm house? That winter of 1843, the two children had been left to fend for themselves. If their long-gone father would return and set things right. It is the promise of a new and better life that finally prompts Lyddie to journey to the mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts. As a factory girl, she will earn a wage -and be free. No matter that she has to live in a crowded boarding house, that the clatter of incessant looms is deafening, that the murky lint-filled air brings on fevers and wracking coughs. Despite the menacing overseer, Lyddie works long, exhausting hours to be able to pay off the debt and regain her beloved farm. But does she jeopardize her job-and her family’s future-by being friends with the radical Diana and perhaps signing a petition for better conditions.