Around her the workers were screaming out prayers and curses…. She herself was sobbing tearlessly….Her only prayer was still, “I don’t want to die.”
Oh, please, God, don’t let me die, she thought. I’ve never even had a chance to live.
Bella, newly arrived in New York from Italy, gets a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. There, along with hundreds of other immigrants, she works long hours at a grueling job under terrible conditions. Yetta, a coworker from Russia, has been crusading for a union, and when factory conditions worsen, she helps workers rise up in a strike. Wealthy Jane learns of the plight of the workers and becomes involved with their cause.
Bella and Yetta are at work–and Jane is visiting the factory–on March 25, 1911, when a spark ignites some cloth and the building is engulfed in fire, leading to one of the worst workplace disasters ever.
Margaret Peterson Haddix draws on extensive historical research to bring the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire to tangible life through her thrilling story of Bella, Yetta, and Jane.
—back cover of Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I recently watched a video about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that tore my heart out, so when I saw a book about it, of course, I had to do that to myself again.
That being said, this was a very well written book. After reading it I spent some time researching to see if this was a nonfiction book or at the very least based off of real people. It turns out that at the end of the book the author confirms that some aspects of it are fiction and that other aspects are nonfiction, and that she’ll leave it up to our imaginations to decide what happened and what didn’t happen. I loved that about this book. Although I’m sure the same exact characters didn’t exist and that things didn’t happen in the same exact way, a lot of what happened was probably similar.
The characters were people that I would’ve loved to know in real life, but there were also a few faults with each of them, in my opinion.
First off there is Bella, the Italian immigrant. I thought that her courage was amazing and her love for her family was spectacular. Her spirits were normally high, and she was naive and innocent. I think that she was probably my favorite character. I did not always feel like I, as a reader, had a strong emotional connection with her. I also was a bit annoyed with how she didn’t speak English or Yiddish but could almost always understand the other girls in the factory, even when they spoke to her in a different tongue. I felt like this was poor writing.
Yetta was her Russian coworker. She was probably the character hardest for me to relate to, but I still loved her. I loved her determination during the strikes and how she wouldn’t back down for anything. Towards the end of the book she was mostly just annoying because of how bitter she was. She became bitter with her friends and sister.
I loved how Jane fought for women’s rights in her own way. She wasn’t in the same situation as Bella or Yetta but, still, she fought and helped out how she could. I loved her selflessness, and I think she portrayed a very realistic rich person in this story. It showed how money changed everything back then.
I won’t bore you with history nerd facts, but I thought that this book was a great representation of what was going on during this time. It showed the very real struggles of no middle class and the fight for women’s rights.
I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.