Critical Charles Rose to beat a woman. “But

Critical
Review- Triangle: The Fire that Changed
America  

Background

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David Von Drehle explained the tragedy
of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire to be one of great history. Stuart
Shiffman (2011) supports this claim by indicating that the Triangle: The Fire that Changed America is a powerful yet
historical work that brings vibrancy to the event of the fire.  The engulfing flames destroyed the Triangle
Shirtwaist factory, taking one hundred and forty six lives. The victims of the
fire were mostly Jewish and Italian women workers, who were immigrants.

During the course of the fire only one
exit door was unlocked, forcing workers to fall to their death, while others
died from the smoke. David Von Drehle used scholarly research to capture the
essence of the event, while in the same breathe presenting a social and
political background of the fire. According to Huebler, Hupfauer, Loudermilk,
& Rice (2007), “The author goes great lengths to document the content based
on research of periodicals obtained  from
the time leading up to and immediately following the Triangle fire” (p. 2).

Content Review

The opening chapters of the book
launched the working circumstances, such as deficiency of worker rights, as well
as the increasing strife the leaders placed on the laborers. Triangle: The Fire that Changed America talks
about a woman by the name of Tammany Hall who paid Charles Rose to beat a woman.
“But Charles Rose was not a finicky man…Rose was employed on a mission that
would make men squeamish. He had been hired to beat up young a woman…Clara
Lemlich” (pg. 6). The life of Lemlich was accounted in immense detail in this
scholarly written narrative to demonstrate the extent of which Von Drehle went
to help readers understand the immediacy of the events preceding the fire. It
also demonstrates the battle between workers and owners. Von Drehle accounts
the fire by portraying the filthy working situations of trade in New York. In
light of such an example of Clara Lemlich, the author is meticulous in the way
he presents matters that results in great tragedy because her beating led to
“…the ravenous flames inside the Triangle Shirtwaist Company…” (Von Drehle,
2003, pg. 12).

 Triangle: The Fire that Changed America presented
explicit information of the incidents surrounding the fire through an
assortment of perspective consisting of eye witnesses, emergency responders,
and worker who were enclosed in the fire. The content presented by Von Drehle
was enormously detailed, especially those from eye witness. According to
Heather Pool (2012), “…large crowd…witnessed dozens of young girl plunge to
their death from the ninth floor, many in flames. Members of the crowd could
hear screams of the workers as they caught fire and could smell the burnt flesh
of the victims” (pg. 183). Though eye witnesses were an integral part of David
Von Drehle explanation of what was happening in the triangle fire, only those
who were present at the site of the tragedy can really understand. Steven Biel
(2011) mentioned that, “Those personal narratives, though eloquent, come at a
remove of two or more generations and have less of an emotional impact…” (pg.
943).  Reader can only imagine what it is
like but cannot feel the emotions of the eye witnesses, despite the intricate
details presented in the text.

In additional to eye witness being an
integral part of depicting the event, the text included pictures, which served
as excellent visuals, not only for reader to have an idea of the event, but a
visual outline of the factory and the working conditions of the company. Without
pictures, Von Drehle’s readers would not have a comprehensible understanding of
the placement and location of workers, or even a proper description of the
fire. Huebler, Hupfauer, Loudermilk, & Rice (2007) explained that, “The
pictures and illustrations are exceptional and could stand alone for teaching
purpose relation to the fire and aftermath…The visual aids provide additional
insight and are essential  for the reader
to understand the events of the book ” (pg. 3).

Review of Historical Significance

            Von Drehle’s thorough inspection of
the disastrous event is more than just a factual explanation. He centered much
attention on the trial that took place from the fire and the attempts that were
made to discipline individuals (Isaac Harris and Blanck) accountable for the
overall situation of the event, before and after. According to Zasky (2003), “The
author’s discovery of a long-lost trial transcript also advances our collective
understanding of the circumstances surrounding the disaster, and helps explain
why the Triangle was such a safety-challenged workplace” (n.p). The vivid account
of the lawyers involved in the trial further supplements the readers’
understanding behind the motivations of the main accomplices.

            The criminal trial of the factory
leaders, after the Triangle fire is a gripping occasion that compound the
events leading up the tragedy, as well as the events that occurred after. From
the text, Triangle: The Fire that Changed
America, Von Drehle writing lack the contemporary rudiments of media
confusion and chaos. Though lacking societal mayhem, the author provides his
reader with substantial background information about Max Steuer, Harris and
Blanck’s attorney, a legend in his line of practice. According to Von Drehle
(2003), “Max Steuer…was a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who arrived to
New York with nothing and started climbing…Steuer built his early careers to
Tammany—jailhouse work initially…but quickly building into more serious  matters” (pg 222 & 226). Both defendant,
Harris and Blanck’s were found not guilty, with an acquittal verdict, through
the works and strategies of Steuer. The result of the verdict cause the
defendant to “… duck down the subway stairs outside a secret entrance…( Von
Drehle, 2003, pg 263).

            While the result of the fire shocked
the city of New York, Von Drehle highlighted for his readers, that victim of
the Triangle fire didn’t perish in vain. Shiffman (2011), mentioned that “Out
of the tragedy come more fire-prevention legislation, factory inspection laws,
worker’s compensation acts, and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’
Union” (n.p). The Triangle: The Fire that
Changed America, used this event of tragedy to bring attention to the
insidious, extensively acknowledged, narrow-minded issues of the dangerously
unsafe workplace.

It is also significant that Von Drehle
highlighting the internal conflicts that resulted in the tragedy of one hundred
and forty six victims. Shiffman (2011) explained some of the problems that
cause the tragedy of the Triangle fire by stating that, “Exit doors had been
locked to prevent the girls from sneaking out… Other doors have been locked
to prevent employees from leaving…Fire hoses that might have put out the fire
in its nascent stage were rotten at the folds” (n.p).  Triangle:
The Fire that Changed America brought about significant light to issues
that were happening at Triangle Shirtwaist Company as well as other companies
in and around New York.

Pool (2012) also highlighted that Von
Drehle’s Triangle: The Fire that Changed
America, sparked many changes in politics. She stated that, “Spurred by
loss, activists, union members, Progressive reformer, and politicians all
contributed to now-strengthened call for industrial regulation and workers
protection” (pg 183). The author points out the importance for safety within
the workplace. During that time, in the early 1900s, laws protecting workers
were not enforced but Von Drehle use Triangle:
The Fire that Changed America, to uncover this issues, as well as other
political conflicts. Huebler, Hupfauer, Loudermilk, & Rice (2007) support
this statement by stating that, “The book is particularly important…as it
describes the conflicts between worker, management and the expectations of
worker. There appears to be shortage of history…one that encompasses social
history, details of a workplace tragedy and conflict between workers and bosses”
(pg 3). The book is a great text that allows for individuals to examine the
social and political impacts of organizational safety within the workplace. Triangle: The Fire that Changed America brought
awareness to issues within the workplace, causing a significant change.
According to Pool (2012), “…the fire helped establish basic worker protection
by opening up a different type of conversation about belonging and political
identity…” (pg 184).

There is one issue with the text on a
whole.  Though it brought light to issues
within the workplace that result in social and political change for worker, Triangle: The Fire that Changed America, didn’t
bring about permanent change. According to Mike Wallace (2003), “The only
problematic part of the book is the assumption, nestled in its titled, that
the catastrophe wrought a permanent transformation in the American workplace”
(n.p). Though change was not permanent, Von Drehle used his talent of writing
to show the essence of the tragedy on March of 1911, capturing lasting memories
and monument of those who lost their lives in Triangle Shirtwaist Company
fire. 

Conclusion

            David Von Drehle explained the
tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire to be one of great history. The
engulfing flames destroyed the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, taking one hundred
and forty six lives. David Von Drehle used scholarly research to capture the
essence of the event, while in the same breathe presenting a social and
political background of the fire. In addition to eye witness being an integral
part of depicting the event, the text included pictures, which served as
excellent visuals, not only for reader to have an idea of the event that took
place, but a visual outline of the factory and the working conditions of the
company. It is also significant that Von Drehle highlighting the internal
conflicts that resulted in the tragedy of one hundred and forty six victims
by  pointing out the importance for safety
within the workplace. Through Triangle:
The Fire that Changed America, the victims of the fire got the historical
recognition they deserve.

 

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