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The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in lower Manhattan on March 25, 1911 lasted only one-half hour, but it was a half-hour that changed our nation. For ninety years it was the worst workplace disaster in American history, with a final death toll of 146, a disaster that ultimately led to a wave of reform ? not all of which has endured. Through skillful storytelling VonDrehle leads us carefully through a detailed history of the labor movement that sought to raise the working standards of immigrants, details the deplorable working conditions that led to many strikes, and introduces us to the complex machinations of New York?s Tammany Hall. It illustrates how the lives of the immigrants who both perished and lived became intricately linked with those of politicians, wealthy suffragists and reformers. Triangle is a story that readers will not soon forget.
May 10, 2007
Disappointing analysis of a major event
With a title like this, one would expect a lot from Triangle, and it is - at points - a very compelling book. The description of the shirt-waist factory fire, which killed about 145 people (mostly young, Jewish women) and was the greatest workplace disaster in New York history until 9/11, is devastating. The fire - which as a poor student of history I'd never heard of - lead to major changes in terms of shifting power towards labor and away from business (at least in relative terms). For me, that was the reason I bought the book, to find out what impact this fire had on the country...and author David Von Drehle sort of punts on that aspect. He covers this, to be sure, but the book is more about the immediate events leading up to the fire, and the trial that followed. Discussions of the actual impact are nominal, and that's a disappointment. The book is good, to be sure, but it wasn't what the title led me to believe it would be, and in the end, I'm not sure I could recommend it.
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