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Flesh and Blood So Cheap
Cover of Flesh and Blood So Cheap
Flesh and Blood So Cheap
The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
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On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City burst into flames.  The factory was crowded.  The doors were locked to ensure workers stay inside.  One hundred...
On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City burst into flames.  The factory was crowded.  The doors were locked to ensure workers stay inside.  One hundred...
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  • On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City burst into flames.  The factory was crowded.  The doors were locked to ensure workers stay inside.  One hundred forty-six people—mostly women—perished; it was one of the most lethal workplace fires in American history until September 11, 2001.
    But the story of the fire is not the story of one accidental moment in time.  It is a story of immigration and hard work to make it in a new country, as Italians and Jews and others traveled to America to find a better life.  It is the story of poor working conditions and greedy bosses, as garment workers discovered the endless sacrifices required to make ends meet.  It is the story of unimaginable, but avoidable, disaster.  And it the story of the unquenchable pride and activism of fearless immigrants and women who stood up to business, got America on their side, and finally changed working conditions for our entire nation, initiating radical new laws we take for granted today.
    With Flesh and Blood So Cheap, Albert Marrin has crafted a gripping, nuanced, and poignant account of one of America's defining tragedies.

Excerpts-

  • From the book I

    HUDDLED MASSES

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

    —Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus" (1883), inscription on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty



    Immigration Old and New

    In the spring of 1903, Sadie Frowne, age thirteen, and her mother sailed into New York Harbor aboard a steamship crowded with immigrants from Europe. Finally, their voyage had ended. As the passengers gathered on deck, Sadie recalled, they marveled at a giant green figure that seemed to rise out of the water. She never forgot "the big woman with the spikes on her head and the lamp that is lighted at night in her hand." Thus, the Statue of Liberty welcomed the newcomers to the United States and, they prayed, to a better life.

    Although America has always been a land of hope, immigrants have come from different places, at different times, for different reasons. This has led historians to divide immigration into two phases: old and new. The old immigration began in colonial times, more than a century before the United States existed as an independent nation. Over the generations, immigrants came from western and northern Europe: England, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark. Except for Irish Catholics, most "old" immigrants were of the Protestant faith and could read and write their native language. Despite hardships, these people soon found their place in America.

    The shift from the old to the new immigration began in the 1880s. While immigrants continued to arrive from the familiar places, a flood of humanity also came from southern and eastern Europe: Italy, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Russia. By 1910, people from these countries made up seven out of ten immigrants entering the United States, chiefly through New York City. Of these, the vast majority were Italians (mainly Catholic) and Jews from Russia. Because nearly all the victims of the Triangle Fire were from these two groups, we must look at them closely.



    The Land Time Forgot

    Educated Americans had always admired Italy as a land of beauty and culture. Each year, thousands of tourists visited its ancient cities—Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice—to see their splendid churches, museums, and art galleries. Music lovers filled the opera houses and concert halls. Yet few Americans realized that Italy was really two countries.

    Northern Italy, the area tourists favored, was more advanced economically than the southern areas. The nation's industries, banks, and major businesses were based in the north. Since the government was in Rome, the capital, Northerners made the laws, controlled the courts, and commanded the police. For them, the south was little more than an uncivilized colony, an extension of Africa.

    If you look at a map, you will see that southern Italy forms the heel and toe of the Italian "boot." The boot, in turn, "kicks" Sicily, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. Known as "the land time forgot," the south was a region of small farms and villages that lagged behind the industrial north in all things but la miseria—misery.

    Misery ruled southern Italy. The majority of its people were among the poorest in Europe. Peasants, or farmers, did not own the land, but worked tiny parcels rented from wealthy landlords, chiefly nobles and northern businessmen. Landlords demanded high rents, so peasants could not afford to buy fertilizer or machinery. Instead, they tilled the soil with hand plows and hoes that were old when their grandparents were...

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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from 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, which resulted in the deaths of 146 workers, mostly young Italian and Jewish women. Though America represented
    opportunity for immigrants escaping religious persecution, disease, and natural
    disaster, New York City was sharply divided between the elite and those who, Marrin modestly writes, "lived more simply." B&w photographs and illustrations reveal immigrant families' impoverished living environments, while testimonials describe the "humiliating" work rules and unsafe conditions of factories like Triangle ("Slavery holds nothing worse," expressed one worker). Despite workers' efforts to organize, it took a preventable disaster to enact real change. Marrin (Years of Dust) mines eyewitness accounts of flaming bodies, and also imagines a victim's horrific internal monologue: "If I jump, my family will have a body to identify and bury, but if I stay in this room, there will be nothing left." A concluding description of a Bangladeshi garment factory fire in 2010 offers contemporary parallels. Marrin's message that protecting human dignity is our shared responsibility is vitally resonant. Ages 10–up.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from May 1, 2011

    Gr 6 Up-One hundered years ago, a fire broke out in a garment factory in New York City that took the lives of 146 workers, primarily poor Jewish and Italian immigrants. It had an enormous impact on workplace conditions that reverberates even today. This comprehensive volume focuses not only on the day of the fire itself, but also on the individuals, events, and circumstances that led to the disaster and created the conditions that caused so many people to perish. Marrin also explores the aftermath of the tragedy, including union development, workplace safety regulations, and workers' rights. A final chapter examines working conditions in factories around the globe and how safety standards are compromised throughout the developing world. The writing is compelling and detailed, and the author effectively manages to bridge the gap between detached expository writing and emotionally charged content. Period photographs are an essential part of the story being told here, and short sidebars about key people help flesh out the narrative. For those looking for an intriguing, readable account of a turning point in history, or doing research on immigration, this is a useful and thoughtful addition to any American history collection.-Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

    Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from April 1, 2011
    Grades 7-10 *Starred Review* At the core of this landmark look at labor history is the detailed drama of the notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which 146 workers died. Most of the victims were immigrant women between the ages of 14 and 23 who were burned or suffocated behind locked doors or who perished when they tried to escape the flames by jumping from windows. Their catastrophic deaths lead to changes in U.S. working conditions and fueled a campaign for union rights. This volumes excellent early chapters focus on the personal histories of the victims, many of whom were Russian Jews and Italian Catholics, and examine why their families left Europe, the passage to America, and life in New York Citys tenements. Following chapters delve into the horrifying factory conditions that led to the fire. The highly readable book design features black-and-white photos on every double-page spread as well as newspaper accounts and biographical profiles, including those of leading protesters, such as Jacob Riis and Rose Schneiderman. Marrin further expands the discussion with disturbing contemporary parallels to underground sweatshops today. 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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

  • The Horn Book

    July 1, 2011
    Marrin details the social, political, and economic forces surrounding the catastrophic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. The book isn't just about the disaster; copious historical context is presented with a high level of detail about various aspects of life for poor working immigrants. Archival photographs also help provide a sense of the times while putting faces to the tragedy. Websites. Bib., ind.

    (Copyright 2011 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)

  • Starred Review, Booklist, April 1, 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."

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