Monday, March 25, 2013

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: Women's Work

On this day in 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory burned. Due to the common working conditions of the time, workers were trapped, with 146 dying, mostly teen girls. In honor of this tragedy, and March being women's history month, here's a list of books about the first and other books about women and work.


Lost by Jacqueline Davies. Essie wonders why Harriet, obviously from a well-to-do family works at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Essie's home life is hard-- her mother is distant and cold, her father dead. All Essie cares for is the law student next door and her younger sister. We know the fire is coming, but there are even more secrets to be revealed.

Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin. Marrin not only tells the history of the fire and its aftermath but gives context to the life many of the workers led and follows the labor issues and working conditions involved to the modern day.

Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner. Raisa has left her Polish schetl to live with her sister in New York, but when she gets, there, her sister has disappeared. Raisa gets a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and looks for her sister, while eeking out her own life, until the day of the fire changes everything.


Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Three girls from different backgrounds become friends at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. Told in each voice, this does more than focus on the tragic fire, but also covers an earlier strike against unfair labor conditions.

Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch. Rose and her family immigrate to the US from Ireland, but soon part of the family must return home. Rose and her sister stay in New York, working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. When her father is murdered, Esperanza and her mother flee to from Mexico to the US. Esperanza is used to an upper class life, not her new life as a migrant worker worker during the depression.


Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie Chang. Chang follows several young migrant workers from rural China to factory life in Dongguan. Here they make friends, live on their own, try to better themselves, and are always looking for the next best job. Written for adults, teens will be fascinated by this story of where their stuff comes from and how teens live on the other side of the world.

Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Patterson. When the millworkers in Lawrence, Mass. go on strike, Rosa is confused. Her teacher says the strikers are good-for-nothing rabble rousers, but Rosa's mother and sister on the picket lines. Then she's sent away with the other children, to stay safe until the strike is over. This one's on the young side of teen, and an excellent read.

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Lawson. In this sequel to Hattie Big Sky, Hattie's on her way to San Francisco to try to be a newspaper reporter-- a tough thing for a young woman to do in the years after WWI. But if she could survive a Montana winter, Hattie knows she can do anything.

What are your best books about women and labor issues for teens?

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