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Publisher's Summary

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.
This harrowing yet compulsively readable book is both a chronicle of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and a vibrant portrait of an entire age. It follows the waves of Jewish and Italian immigration that inundated New York in the early years of the century, filling its slums and supplying its garment factories with cheap, mostly female labor. It portrays the Dickensian work conditions that led to a massive waist-workers strike in which an unlikely coalition of socialists, socialites, and suffragettes took on bosses, police, and magistrates. Von Drehle shows how popular revulsion at the Triangle catastrophe led to an unprecedented alliance between idealistic labor reformers and the supremely pragmatic politicians of the Tammany machine.
David Von Drehle orchestrates these events into a drama rich in suspense and filled with memorable characters: the tight-fisted Shirtwaist kings Max Blanck and Isaac Harris; Charles F. Murphy, the shrewd kingmaker of Tammany Hall; blue-blooded activists like Anne Morgan, daughter of J.P. Morgan; reformers Frances W. Perkins and Al Smith. Most powerfully, he puts a human face on the men and women who died on March 25th. Triangle is a vibrant and immensely moving account of the hardships of New York City life in the early part of the 20th century, and how this event transformed politics and gave rise to urban liberalism.
©2004 David von Drehle (P)2011 Random House
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Jessica Jewett on 05-11-15


Amazing. Though it's a nonfiction book, it paints a picture with a narrative that feels like fiction to put the reader right there among the strikers and the fire victims. This story should be required for everyone studying women's history.

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By MAR - Baltimore on 02-13-18

Historical Importance

This book appears to have been extremely well-researched and was fascinating to read about both the events leading up to the fire, as well as gaining more of the social, political and historic context for these events.

Am very glad I read (& listened) to this book as I learned things about that time period and the fire that I never knew - as well as how significant this event was in shaping future laws and political direction. The beginning portion of book was a bit dry, largely due to all of the social/political context and straight history (almost read like as a textbook), but it was a compelling read overall, and very well-done.

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