Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy



Marrin, Albert. Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy. 2011. 182pp. Lexile 1000.

In 1911, 146 workers—most of them young women—died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan.  Veteran nonfiction writer Marrin goes beyond recounting the tragedy to analyzing immigration, limitations on women, and the rise of unions in conjunction with the fire.  He explains why most of the women, ages fourteen to twenty-three, were Russian Jews and Italian Catholics.  He describes tenement life, with the portrayal reinforced by black-and-white photographs including some from photojournalist Jacob Riis, whose words provide the title: "Oh, God!  That bread should be so dear, and flesh and blood so cheap!"  Marrin discusses the aftermath of the fire and the movement to improve working conditions.  He wraps up with a look at garment workers today in the U.S. and internationally, some of whom face sweatshop conditions similar to those in the past. 

Reading Std #3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.  Marrin brings together topics of immigration, the labor movement, and safety issues and laws in his account of the Triangle Fire.  Have students analyze how he connects these topics, including the role of important people in the different sub-topics.