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

by Albert Marrin
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What does the author want you to know from reading Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy?

The author wants us to know how bad working conditions were in the early 20th century for millions of the poorest people in America. The 1911 Triangle Fire was a direct result of such appalling treatment of low-paid workers. Due to poor health and safety standards, 146 people, many of them young girls, were killed when a deadly fire broke out at a shirtwaist factory in New York City.

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At the time when the Triangle Fire broke out, millions of American workers toiled in conditions that were unsafe, unsanitary, and downright dangerous. As the title of Marrin's book makes clear, the flesh and blood of too many American workers were seen as cheap and disposable by their unscrupulous employers. The bosses knew that they could treat their employees as they pleased without consequences.

Marrin is writing for young adults, so he wants his audience to connect with the young women of a similar age who worked at the Triangle Factory, many of whom died in the subsequent fire. Nowadays, child labor is against the law, but in 1911 it was widespread. As it is difficult for young adults today to imagine what it would be like to work in such atrocious conditions, Marrin uses first-hand testimony from those who worked at the Triangle Factory to help his readers understand what it was like.

He also draws on such testimony in recounting the harrowing story of the fire itself. It ripped through the building, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Testimony from the survivors tells us how confused and panic-stricken people were as the fire spread rapidly. Had there been regular fire drills, then people would've known what to do in such circumstances. As it was, the owners of the company made no effort to enact such measures. Their negligence had catastrophic results.

The 1911 Triangle Fire is generally forgotten today. By informing a new generation of young adults about this appalling tragedy, Marrin hopes to remedy this gap in our collective knowledge. He exposes the unimaginable conditions in which so many Americans were once expected to work.

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