The Triangle Waist Girls, Gone But Not Forgotten in Haddix’s Uprising
A Quick Pick by Hannah Carmack, Creative Content Coordinator
Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series is phenomenal for young readers. If your older elementary or middle school students loved her books, introduce them to an oldie, but a goodie, Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Uprising.
I have a very specific memory of first picking up this book in my middle school’s library. There were three girls on the cover and flames coming up from the bottom. Being someone who read a whole lot of fantasy, I was expecting super powers and flame-shooting girls. What I got instead was some of the best historical fiction I have ever read.
Logline: In 1911, before the days of child labor laws, kids worked alongside adults in booming, industrial-age factories. Uprising follows the story of three young girls who worked at the Triangle Waist Factory during its infamous blaze, which took over 130 lives and had calamitous effects on the city. This fictional account of a very real disaster will leave readers with a greater understanding of the sacrifices made and losses suffered in the fight for equal pay, workers’ rights, and fair treatment of immigrants & women.
There is a skillful balancing act throughout the novel, not only in alternating viewpoints, but also in alternating content. Haddix’s Uprising covers a number of time-period-specific problems, such as immigrating through Ellis Island and being a woman in the 1910’s, but it also covers a major disaster like the disaster Lauren Tarshis recounted in I Survived: the Great Chicago Fire, 1871. At no point does one plot line detract from the other. In fact, this alternating content adds to the emotional impact that the reader feels when the fire is over and it’s time for the girls to move on.
Uprising would be a great fit for a historical fiction reading unit, as well as a great starting point for any reluctant readers with a soft spot for history. Ethics and economics also play a big roll in the novel’s worker’s rights narrative and would be an excellent jumping off point for a group discussion. You could also use this to explore fire safety, the history of safety regulations, and improvements in fire science.
I’d recommend this for any eager I Survived reader regardless of age. The content is fairly easy to understand and the pacing can hold anyone’s attention for the entirety of the story. However, it is worth noting that Scholastic Publishing places the novel in a 6-8 grade reading range due to vocabulary. Either way, check Uprising out next time you’re at the local bookstore.