93 pages 3 hours read

Margaret Peterson Haddix


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2007

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Summary and Study Guide


Uprising is a novel of historical fiction by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The story revolves around a 1911 New York fire at The Triangle shirtwaist factory that killed 146 immigrant workers. The Triangle firefollowed a citywide strike led by the shirtwaist workers that served to summon great public interest. Thus, the fire was perceived as not only a great tragedy, but an inciting symbol for the Labor Movement in the Industrial Revolution.

Haddix’s narrative interweaves the perspectives of three women from different classes and social situations: Bella, Yetta, and Jane. Bella is a young immigrant worker just off the boat from Italy who is desperate to send money home to her starving family. Yetta is a fervent activist, self-proclaimed revolutionary, and a Jewish refugee seeking asylum from a Russian pogrom. Jane is the daughter of a wealthy (but nouveau-riche) businessman who desires to liberate herself amidst her support for The Triangle strike.

Through Yetta and Bella, the reader is introduced to the financial exploitation and poor working conditions experienced by immigrant workers in the shirtwaist factory. Workers are refused payment for “learning” days when they fill in for sick workers. Their already meager earningsare docked for the slightest infractions. Bosses operate like prison wardens, locking the doors of the factory until closing time, then searching their workers for stolen goods as they leave. The unbearable factory conditions lead to an uprising of the shirtwaist workers. Yetta joins a group of strikers who picket daily outside The Triangle. While picketing, Yetta meets Jane, who has joined a group of Vassar socialites supporting the strike. Though wealthy, Jane feels imprisoned by social expectations for women.

Despite their radical differences, Bella, Yetta, and Jane unite in the fight for labor rights and women’s suffrage. In their combined efforts, the three girls become good friends. When the historical fire breaks out on March 25, 1911, the reader finds that all three women are present at the Triangle Waist Company. Through the tragedy that ensues, each woman bravely confronts her own personal struggle, as the city joins together in both mourning and remembering.