Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 080214151X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“Sure to become the definitive account of the fire. . . . Triangle is social history at its best, a magnificent portrayal not only of the catastrophe but also of the time and the turbulent city in which it took place.” —The New York Times Book Review

Triangle is a poignantly detailed account of the 1911 disaster that horrified the country and changed the course of twentieth-century politics and labor relations. On March 25, 1911, as workers were getting ready to leave for the day, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. Within minutes it 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 deaths. The final toll was 146 people—123 of them women. It was the worst disaster in New York City history. Triangle is a vibrant and immensely moving account that Bob Woodward calls, “A riveting history written with flare and precision.”

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their attorney. “Oh mama, look! Here they come!” someone shouted. “Here are the murderers!” Led by an elderly woman dressed in mourning clothes, the crowd surged toward the defendants. Many of them waved photographs of fire victims. “Murderers! Murderers!” they cried in Yiddish. “The women beat their chests [and] tore their hair,” the American reported. The defendants blanched, but Max Steuer was unintimidated. Five and a half feet tall, 160 stout-chested pounds, he shoved his way through,

Abramowitz’s cutting table, the fire had consumed most of the room—more than nine thousand square feet. For the first two or three of those minutes, half the life of the blaze, the fire had been small enough for Samuel Bernstein to consider fighting it by hand. The transformation was stupefying—this was a firestorm. The sheer speed of it must be kept in mind. All the crucial things that happened inside the factory that awful afternoon—the heroics, the terror, the tragedy, the strokes of fortune

violent convergence of the hired hoodlums and the indomitable Clara Lemlich was the clashing of the old against the new. From the summer of 1909 to the end of 1911, New York waist makers—young immigrants, mostly women—achieved something profound. They were a catalyst for the forces of change: the drive for women’s rights (and other civil rights), the rise of unions, and the use of activist government to address social problems. One man who grew up on New York’s Lower East Side in the 1880s

they, perhaps, Lucia and Rosaria Maltese? Lucy and Sara, they liked to be called. Lucy was the big sister, twenty years old, and no doubt she kept an eye out for Sara, who was only fourteen, the youngest of the fire victims. Both of them were burned, but neither one as badly as their mother, Catherine, whose body could not be identified. One Saturday morning Salvatore Maltese was patriarch of a big and perfect family: a wife, two girls and two boys. That night his home no longer had any women in

district attorney was a veteran newspaperman with special expertise in state politics; he served as Whitman’s private secretary. The reporter who covered Whitman for New York’s biggest daily doubled as a virtual image consultant. The D.A. listened carefully to these teachers. He came to understand what makes reporters truly happy: juicy stories and plenty of them. With his bully pulpit, subpoena power, and sway over the grand jury, the district attorney could keep news flowing as regularly as

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