Book Review: Triangle, The Fire That Changed America

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Review: Triangle, the Fire That Changed America In the late afternoon of March 25, 1911, 3 floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company began to burn. Locked doors prevented workers from leaving their stations, and fire trucks’ ladders were too short to get to the upper floors. Within minutes 146 people, mostly young immigrant Jewish and Italian women, were dead, and the stage was set for a trial that would serve as a catalyst for massive changes to American labor laws. In the novel Triangle, the Fire That Changed America David Von Drehle writes about all of this from the perspective of the people affected by this tragedy and starts the narrative before the fire had even begun by giving us a glimpse into the various actor’s lives; he then proceeds…show more content…
Both arguments are made convincing using well sourced anecdotes, with (relevant) supporting information serving to provide credibility to the facts presented. In particular, the direct quotes from detectives and prosecutors in chapter 9, in regards to the building being locked by the owners, served to make a compelling argument for the reader that the factory owners were to blame in the number of deaths. The second point was equally well sourced however in attributing many labor reforms solely to the Triangle fire it glossed over what socio-political changes were occuring in the country at the time. During this time Theodore Roosevelt was working to regulate companies further (McGerr, A Fierce Discontent, 177) and had even given his famous “New Nationalism” speech a year before the fire, during which he called for more government oversight of all businesses. This is indicative of a much larger and more widespread change occurring before the fire had occurred; and while the fire certainly catalysed reforms, the way that Von Drehle lauds it as if it was the singular event to lead to these changes is somewhat inaccurate. Overall however, the relevant information presented in Triangle makes compelling support for Von Drehle’s

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