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The Triangle Fire

20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801487149
ISBN-10: 0801487145
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Editorial Reviews


"Stein's straightforward, highly descriptive narrative is woven together as skillfully as a well-edited documentary film demonstrating that the nation's worst industrial tragedy didn't have to happen."—America@work, May 2001

"For some history on the labor movement, pick up the recently re-issued The Triangle Fire. . . . Stein's groundbreaking account of the 1911 disaster when fire and sweatshop conditions killed 146 employees is just as pertinent today."—George Yatchisin, Santa Barbara Independent, May 3, 2001

"This book . . . is a gripping and chilling reminder of what our foremothers endured to build a life in the New world. . . . The tragedy is no less riveting for being almost a century old."—Gwenn Kay, Jewish Observer, 12 July 2001

"Stein's book is based on the author's exhaustive research of contemporary sources, and his own interviews with survivors He vividly recreates the scene."—Jonathan Eaton. Our Times, June/July 2001

"Stein divided his book into two parts, an agonizing and detailed account of the shocking events of March 25, 1911, and an itemized report of the aftermath. This new edition retains Stein's stark chronicle and, . . . adds 16 pictures that greatly augment the narrative."—Morton I. Teicher. The Jerusalem Post, December 2001

"With regards to protest and changes in legislation, the Triangle Fire raised the consciousness of the American public, for a brief time. . . . Stein would ask us to reflect on the lessons of . . . industrial accidents, fires, and the toll of human carnage. History proves that under any economic system, accidents occur in the industrialization process. Yet we can argue that some industrial accidents, wars, and terrorist acts are preventable. Unbridled economic greed, whether under capitalism, democratic socialism, or communism, driven by what sometimes appears as contempt for human life, needs to be harnessed, or in economic terms, regulated."—Kate Laskowitz, Purdue University, Shofar, Winter 2004

"Leon Stein's gripping narrative of the Triangle tragedy is one of the classics of American history. And William Greider has added an introduction that bluntly, eloquently describes how little conditions have changed for sweatshop workers the world over. As the grandson of a one-time Triangle seamstress, I salute the reissue of a book that anyone who cares about labor, past or present, should read."—Michael Kazin, Georgetown University. Author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History and other books.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (February 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801487145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801487149
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,906,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Higgins on November 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Once I opened this book, I was hooked. The author's writing style grips you by the throat and drags you along with the survivors and the victims of this horrific yet history-making catastrophe! Every time you go into an office building and see a glowing exit sign, idly note that the doors have crash bars and open into the stairwell, or brush up against a fire extinguisher or hose cabinet, you'll remember why they're now mandated to be there. This disaster should never have happened, and this book explains why and how steps were taken to keep it from happening again. But it is also a book about people--those who made it out alive and those who didn't, and the little choices that made the difference.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Graceann Macleod on January 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Leon Stein had the advantage of speaking with some of the survivors, and he is an excellent conduit through which they tell their story. The strike is covered briefly, but Stein concentrates on the fire and its aftermath, including the gruesome task of identifying the bodies and the mournful series of funerals, culminating in the procession for the unknowns. Read this volume in tandem with David von Drehle's "Triangle: The Fire that Changed America," as they complement each other perfectly.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on April 2, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Leon Stein is a marvelous story-teller, who in THE TRIANGLE FIRE, shows incredible restraint. Given his pro-union, pro-labor background, you can almost hear him checking himself--holding back from screaming at an anti-labor era in America that caused so many needless deaths and injuries. Published on, roughly, the 50th anniversary of the disaster, Stein presents a story of young immigrant girls standing up against sweatshop atrocities, only to find themselves, in the case of the girls laboring at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, pushed further down. The account of the disaster is appropriately harrowing.

William Greider's introduction, although occassionally heavy-handed, makes the reader wonder how much things have improved now that we are almost marking the 100th anniversary of that awful day.

Also, it would be worthwhile to read this in conjunction with David von Driehle's superb "Triangle: The Fire that Changed America".

Rocco Dormarunno, author of "The Five Points".
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on April 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a very personal and gripping account of the fire on March 25, 1911, at the Triangle Shirtwaist company located on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the Asch building in New York adjacent to Washington Square Park, where 146 young immigrant women were either burned to death or leapt from the ledges of the building. The author had a personal involvement in this event, as he joined the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union in 1928 as a garment cutter before joining the staff of their publication Justice. The book is based primarily on newspaper accounts and interviews of many who experienced that horrific event.

The book is written as if the author was there. The horror of sixty-some people jumping, sometimes in twos. The messiness at the bottom. What befell those caught on the overloaded fire escape as it ripped from the building. He captures the anguish of those identifying bodies at the improvised morgue, those continually walking in the streets - some silently, some crying out - at the scene of the disaster trying to make sense of it all, the huge funeral processions, etc. He tells the remarkable story of the aid rendered by the Red Cross to surviving family members, many of whom as recent arrivees had no place to turn.

He tells the dismal story of ineffectual building code standards and enforcement. The strident efforts of all to avoid blame, especially the factory owners. He tells of the ineffectualness of the shirtwaist makers themselves in trying to improve their working conditions, especially safety concerns, which included a huge city-wide strike at the end of 1909.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By L. Rawles on January 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
I used this book to write a 33 page paper concerning the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. It is not only fascinating, but the most thorough work on this tragic subject I could find. He is a fantastic author and documentarian.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Severin Olson on February 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We are now approaching the hundreth anniversary of the Triange Fire, and, as with all historical events, time is slowly wiping out evidence it ever happened. The last survivor died a very old woman in 2001, just months before victims would jump from another city high rise. Stein's book came out about a half century ago, and has been the primary reference since then, or at least until Von Drehle's five years ago.

Stein does a fine job of giving the reader an overview of the 1911 story. Although a labor activist, he does not soak the book in union vemon, but describes the event in the detached manner of a newsman. The fire itself is described in the first half.

I don't agree with the reviewer whose 'half baked' review labeled part two as a yawn. The trial section is actually quite fascinating, and brings the reader into the minds of the victims struggling against a critical locked door.

Finally, I must mention that I found condemnation of the buidlings owners not wholly appropriate. Workers at the Ash building were poor young women who often spoke no English and had few prospects for making a living. A job in a 'sweatshop' doesn't sound so bad in that light.
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