Note to parents: the end might be disturbing to younger children. This book is about a fire and people do die. You might want to read this before letting your children do so.
Uprising is such an amazing book because it really happened! Ok, well, mostly. It’s a fiction story about three girls based on the country-changing Triangle Factory fire. You don’t know what that is? Well, I didn’t either until I read this book.
The story starts out with a daughter of the factory owner coming to Mrs. Livingston, asking what happened. Mrs. Livingston finally starts to tell her the story.
“The story begins like so much else,” she says slowly. “With hope. Hope and dreams and daring…”
Bella has found a job. Rather, Pietro has found a job for her. Either way, Bella is happy. Anything to get money to save her family in Italy from starving. They were all suppose to come to America but the rest of her family didn’t make it through Ellis Island. She has a training day first, a day when she is learning, but doesn’t get any pay. And that is the day that the strike starts. Bella, who can’t speak a syllable of English has no idea what’s going on. So when all the other workers get up and storm out, so does Bella. She has no idea of the consequences.
When she finds out what is really going on, she barely manages to keep her job, much to the disgust of Yetta, a Russian Jew who is fired up for the strike andforthebetterworkingconditionsandtreatmentofwomeneverywhereandwhoknowswherethiscouldleadmaybewomencouldfinallyvoteandhaveavoiceandbemorethandirttotrompon??? She’s pretty fired up, to say the least. Rahel, who’s seen strikes and demonstration, is less excited, but still supporting it.
Jane, however, has no idea that any of this is going on. She is at a party, listening to other high society girls droning on about nothing. But she’s thinking about the girls she saw coming out of the shirtwaist factory. There’s just something different about them.
Life doesn’t get any more easier for any of the girls. Bella continues to work, but Pietro suddenly disappears. It seems his boss took him down to South Carolina to work…a long way from New York City. Yetta is still striking, frozen, starving, and beaten. Jane is discovering colleges for woman and the suffrage movement.
But it all comes to a head when Bella races to Yetta to ask her to read a letter for her. Jane, who has been visiting the strikers more and more, is at the right place at the right time, and when Yetta can’t read the letter either, Jane volunteers. That’s when Bella finds out that her entire family is dead.
Compassionate Jane takes Bella home with her, much to the horror of Miss Milhouse and nurses her back to health. Soon, she realizes that Bella can’t speak a word of English and goes to find Yetta so that they can understand each other. Miss Milhouse throws the street girls back where they belong, the street, much to the horror of Jane.
Suddenly the strike is over. Other strikers are tired and starving. The factories have agreed to some of their demands, but not the demand of a closed house. As Yetta furiously points out, they can turn back on what they said as soon as the rich people start looking the other way.
But Yetta and Bella have to eat, so they go back to their job. Jane’s father comes back, and she asks him to send money to help the suffrage. To her dismay, he refuses and tells her about the actions he has taken to stop the strikers.
Jane is ashamed, horrified, and furious. She leaves her house for good and suddenly finds herself another poor, naive, expendable girl. Yetta and Bella take her in.
Their friendship grows, only for the worst to happen.
But then there was a flash, and Yetta saw the flame jump, from under the table to the top of it. More men grabbed buckets, desperately pouring water onto the flames, but there’d been only three buckets on that shelf so they had to fun across the room for more.
This was a very good book. It had me hooked. What was even more astounding was that this fire actually happened. So many died in the Triangle fire that is was the worst workplace disaster in New York City until September 11, 2001.
Margaret Peterson Haddix did a very good job at skillfully writing Bella, Yetta and Jane’s stories. About how they ended up in the fire. How the fire started. What things were like before the fire. It was a horrible event, and Margaret makes sure that you see what makes it horrible.
Yet she also shows hope and forgiveness. When Mrs. Livingston and the daughter of the man she blames for her friend’s death meet, forgiveness was shown, along with a challenge to make the world a better place.
I would highly recommend that you pick this book up the next time you get a gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It is well worth it!