Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy Hardcover – February 8, 2011
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, January 17, 2011:
"Published to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the 1911 fire that erupted in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, this powerful chronicle examines the circumstances surrounding the disaster...Marrin's message that protecting human dignity is our shared responsibility is vitally resonant."
Starred Review, Booklist, April 1, 2011:
"Sure to spark discussion, this standout title concludes with source notes and suggested-reading lists that will lead students to further resources for research and debate."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, May 2011:
"The writing is compelling and detailed, and the author effectively manages to bridge the gap between detached expository writing and emotionally charged content...this is a useful and thoughtful addition to any American history collection."
About the Author
ALBERT MARRIN is the author of numerous highly regarded nonfiction books for young readers, including Years of Dust; The Great Adventure: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Modern America; and Sitting Bull and His World. His many honors include the Washington Children's Book Guild and Washington Post Non-Fiction Award for an "outstanding lifetime contribution that has enriched the field of children's literature," the James Madison Book Award for lifetime achievement, and the National Endowment for Humanities Medal.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Marrin opens with a bare bones account of the fire and a brief glimpse of life in New York City around the early twentieth century. But to understand the fire and its context, one must first understand the people and the social conditions involved. So Marrin backs up his story to explore the lives of immigrants - mostly Italians and Russian Jews, particularly women and girls - who made up the bulk of the menial labor force in the garment industry around the turn of the century. Due to economic and political pressures in their own countries, these immigrants were pressed to venture to America with little more than the clothes on their backs and the money for their fare. They endured harsh conditions only to find a new life of hardship packed tightly into the tenements of New York City. But this new life, as hard as it was, offered relative safety and opportunity for advancement not to be had in the Old World, so they worked hard and made the most of it.
Those who had come before, meanwhile, had already achieved their success, and the rich among them lived in lavish mansions along "Millionaire's Row" dining on lobster and smoking cigarettes rolled in hundred dollar bills. The contracts in material life was stark, but the real inequality came in the non-material aspects: basic rights, education, working conditions and quality of life. There was none of the social "safety net" which we today take for granted (and which therefore is gradually being eroded), so every man and woman (and many children) had to rely on him or herself, the family, and perhaps the neighborhood.
Marrin next documents the change in working conditions that led to the creation of the Triangle Waist Factory. Originally all clothes were hand-sewn and tailor-made for the individual wearer (the poor would wear ill-fitting cast-offs from those better off). But the invention of things like the sewing machine, paper patterns, and cloth cutters gave birth to manufactured clothes. These clothes brought a feeling of democracy because even most of the poor could afford decent clothes, but it also brought the rise of the sweatshop, where individual parts of the clothing production process were done assembly-line style in various tenements with "schleppers" hauling materials between locations.
The Triangle Waist Factory as one of the first modern "New-Model" factories in which all parts of the production process were brought under one roof. This saved a great deal of money for the manufacturers and even had some benefits for the workers - cleaner air and better light, for instance. But it also took workers out of smaller, local family-controlled work environments and made them "wage slaves" under the watchful eyes of supervisors who made them work long hours, cheated them of break time, docked their pay for supplies and accidents, and locked them into the factory.
The factory did give workers one other significant benefit, however - the opportunity to meet and organize, albeit often surreptitiously. Although factory owners worked hard to prevent it, often using violent means, workers eventually formed unions and began demanding their rights through protests and strikes. Marrin gives a nice overview of the often rather sordid history of unions and labor relations, including the use of mob violence by both sides. Women were initially shut out of unions, but the garment workers (who were mostly women) formed their own. These unions were supported (to a point, anyway), by some wealthy women of the "Mink Coat Brigade". Through their perseverance, the unions eventually won some rights, including reduced hours and protections from cheating and wage docking.
None of those new benefits, however, were enough to save many of the workers of the Triangle Waist Factory. This chapter is particularly gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. No one knows for sure how the fire started (although illicit smoking by male cutters is the most likely culprit), but once it started, it engulfed everything in the "fireproof" building within minutes. No sprinklers were available to douse the fire and frightened, unprepared workers ran madly to escape the smoke and flames. Some found stairwell doors locked. Some simply flung themselves out the windows, perhaps hoping to grab onto rungs of the fire ladders which reached only to the sixth floor.
The tragedy and outrage of the Triangle Fire could not be ignored, and it gave workers a platform and a voice they would not otherwise have had. In the wake of the fire it soon became politically expedient - even necessary - to initiate investigations against businesses who were formerly ignored. The owners of the Triangle Waist Factory were prosecuted (although acquitted), other factories were investigated, laws were changed, and decent labor and safety standards were decreed (and even enforced somewhat, although not uniformly). Although it was always an uphill struggle, workers eventually earned many of the "New Deal" rights we enjoy today.
In the final chapter, Marrin explores the world of labor relations and "sweatshops" today, both in New York City where new waves of immigrants work in re-constituted sweatshops, and abroad where the majority of our clothes and many other items are made by Asian workers earning a few dollars a week. Marrin also explores the flip side of the issue, for if workers in poor areas don't have sweatshops, then they have nothing - no way to earn a living or feed their families. Of course, the hope would be that those workers too can organize and demand better wages, benefits and working conditions (admittedly easier said than done in today's globalized world).
I highly recommend this book. It should be required reading in middle and high school history courses and every adult should read it too, especially those who believe that if only the government would stop interfering, "market forces" would work out for everyone's benefit. In the early twentieth century, businesses had few pesky regulations to dictate their actions and, among other things, 146 people lost their lives in an unsafe factory. We can have similar incidents again if we're not careful.
This is more than just a story of a workplace tragedy and the factory conditions that caused it. This is a story of immigrant America and all those women whose hard work allows me the freedom I have today. This is more than a good book to read--it is an important book to read and to recommend and to remember. The author did an incredible job of tying together a tapestry of important political and historical threads in order to make the story so much more relevant. I've read several books and articles about this topic but none touched me so deeply as this one.
After reading about the social and living conditions of those immigrants, it seems so very spoiled to complain about Social Security, pension, work breaks, etc. How soon, as a nation, we forget our history. This book very clearly establishes what unions were created for--the protection of the workers and while I was not necessarily pro-union before reading this book, now I very much more understand the great need there has been for a unionized work force. Before complaining one more word about your job, read this book.
The title of the book comes from this quote by Jacob Riis, "That bread should be so dear, and flesh and blood so cheap." To think that these young women could be treated so heinously is almost beyond belief. And yet, it is our history. Thanks to the author for that reminder.