Until September 11, 2001, The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of March 25, 1911 was the deadliest workplace disaster in the history of New York City. The fire shocked the nation and exposed the life-threatening conditions in America’s sweatshop industry. It gave energy to the labor movement and unions, and remade the Democratic Party of the time.
Our guest, David Von Drehle, is the author of “Triangle, the Fire That Changed America,” a book that presents a detailed examination of how this single event changed the course of the 20th century politics and labor relations. In this book, Von Drehle concludes:
As for the mostly nameless young women and men who went on strike in 1909 and bravely walked those relentless picket lines through a freezing winter—and especially those remarkable young people who later died at the Triangle—their memory grows. Their individual lives are mostly lost to us, but their monument and legacy are stitched into our world.
David Von Drehle and I visited by phone from New York City in early September 2003, and began with his description of the fire on March 25, 1911 that changed America.
The book David Von Drehele recommends is “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall” by William Riordan.
This program was originally broadcast on September 9, 2003.
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