Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Centennial Anniversary
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which resulted in the death of 146 garment workers. Many of these were young women who jumped to their deaths because it was their only escape. This disaster led to legislation creating improved factory safety standards. What better way to learn about this period in our history than to read some great books about it!
Fourteen-year-old Raisa is sent from her home in Poland to New York City to find her sister who left four years earlier, in Esther Friesner’s Threads and Flames. After a grueling trip by cart, train, and ship, Raisa arrives in New York only to discover that her sister has disappeared. Helpless and with no where to go, Raisa seeks refuge in a synagogue. There she meets the handsome Gavrel and boards with his family. She finds work at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory and begins attending English classes in hopes of becoming a teacher. But the infamous fire changes everything, and Raisa’s life will never be the same.
In Lost by Jacqueline Davies, Essie lives with her family on the Lower East Side in Manhattan under constant threat of poverty. Though her passion lies with creating beautiful hats, she is forced to work at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory to help her family’s finances. There she meets the mysterious Harriet, a girl who also works at the factory, but clearly does not belong there. Davies slowly unveils the mysteries surrounding not only Harriet, but Essie as well. It isn’t until Essie survives the horrific fire, that she is able to come to terms with a deeper tragedy that she’s buried deep inside herself.
With nearly 100 photographs and compelling narrative style, Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin, is a nonfiction account that looks at the atrocities committed in the New York garment district in the early 1900s. But Marrin goes beyond just the garment district, and looks at the history of immigration in the early 20th century. He focuses mainly on Jewish and Italian immigrants who were fleeing oppression and poverty in their homelands. These immigrants came together to fight for their rights, bringing much needed change to America’s labor practices.
Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner. 2010.
Lost by Jacqueline Davies. 2009.
Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin. 2011.