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Oct
5
David Von Drehle
Booknotes, Sunday, October 5, 2003
David Von Drehle discusses Triangle: The Fire that Changed America.

—from the publisher's website On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York's Greenwich Village. Within minutes it had spread to consume the building's upper three stories. Firemen who arrived at the scene were unable to rescue those trapped inside: their ladders simply weren't tall enough. People on the street watched in horror as desperate workers jumped to their death. The final toll was 146 people -- 123 of them women. It was the worst disaster in New York City history. This harrowing yet compulsively readable book is both a chronicle of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and a vibrant portrait of an entire age. It follows the waves of Jewish and Italian immigration that inundated New York in the early years of the century, filling its slums and supplying its garment factories with cheap, mostly female labor. It portrays the Dickensian work conditions that led to a massive waist-worker's strike in which an unlikely coalition of socialists, socialites, and suffragettes took on bosses, police, and magistrates. Von Drehle shows how popular revulsion at the Triangle catastrophe led to an unprecedented alliance between idealistic labor reformers and the supremely pragmatic politicians of the Tammany machine. (timspalding)… (more)

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