Readers follow Edie Murphy from the age of 14 in rural Newfoundland, Canada, as she moves to New York City, where she witnesses the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911.
Edie’s first-person perspective paints a picture of life in her small hometown as the eldest daughter in a large, poor family. She jumps at the opportunity of a domestic position in a wealthy St. John's home but later moves to New York City, working at the Global Shirtwaist Company. There she befriends girls who speak Yiddish, Italian, and other languages—some of whom express themselves in distractingly broken English. The young women begin attending secret union meetings, joining the historic 1909 Uprising of the 20,000 to demand better working conditions. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 changes everything, and Edie wrestles with the decision of whether to return home. The book touches on the oppressive sweatshop conditions, police brutality, and entrenched socio-economic divisions, evoking sympathy for the young women’s cause. Information about the garment industry unions, agitation by Jewish workers, and the work of activist Clara Lemlich adds depth and interest. Patient readers will be rewarded as they learn about details of daily life, fashion, and the technology of the time. All characters are presumed white.
Those who appreciate character-driven stories will enjoy the feeling of watching history in action. (Historical fiction. 13-17)