Updated on December 14, 2015
Last spring, I ended up at the greatest PTO meeting ever! I know, how is a PTO meeting great? Well, as I was sitting there, in walks a woman that works for the school district with a rolling cart full of books. Books! That she wants to send home with us to read! The district was asking community members and parents to basically preview novels that might be used in the curriculum for the junior high and high school. So we get to take a few books home, read them, and then write a brief summary about any objectionable material that might be in the book, etc. Greatest PTO meeting ever….I got to go home with a stack of books!
I was able to read several great books and fortunately have been able to continue with this little endeavor. It is really a pretty good gig…if only this could be a paid position… This is how I was introduced to The Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
The Uprising is a historical fiction novel about three young women who worked for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in NYC in the the early 1900s. Prior to reading this book, I had no idea that these events in American history ever took place. Not only is this story beautifully told, but I think it an important story and piece of history.
In the early 1900s, many young immigrant women, worked in factories, in unsafe working conditions with very little pay. The workers of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory joined forces with other factory workers, mostly other women, to strike for better salaries and work conditions. They tried to create a union, they picketed, many were arrested, and even beat up. The strike finally ended with the workers still making many concessions and not much change. They did, however, end up with a lot of support and helped in the suffrage movement. They may have conceded, but they made noise.
Then, on March 25, 1911 some cloth in the factory caught fire, which rapidly spread throughout the factory. This was just over a year after the strike had ended. A total of 146 workers, 123 of them females, were killed in that fire. The author notes that this fire changed history. Within two years of the fire there were laws about mandatory sprinklers, mandatory fire drills in businesses, doors were required to swing outward, and many other protections for workers, mainly women.
Frances Perkins watched from the crowd as the building burned and lives were lost. She went on to become the first female Cabinet member as the Secretary of Labor under FDR. She enforced many of these changes nationwide.
Near the end of the novel, a list of other factory tragedies during the same time period is recited. It is then asked, “Why is the Triangle fire the one that everybody remembers?” “I think people remember the Triangle fire because of the strike…And then so many of us died so young, so tragically, so soon after. People felt like they knew us…” So many lives lost, so young, so unnecessarily, but because they had all joined together for a cause, they changed history.
So why am I just now writing about a book that I read in the Spring for a junior high class? I j reread The Uprising a few weeks ago and it struck me how prevalent this book is today. First, it reminded me that we are a nation of immigrants. It was these young immigrant girls who came to America for a better life. When they couldn’t find it, they created it. Second, it reminded me that women STILL are not receiving equal pay in the work place. And it also reminded me that WE can make a difference. WE can stand up for what is right and make our voices heard. WE can create an Uprising!
Last week, after yet another mass shooting, my husband, the boys, and I were wondering aloud, “What can be done? What is going to take?” My response, “It is going to take a bunch of moms to join together and say ENOUGH.”
So on this, the three year anniversary of Sandy Hook, an event that SHOULD have brought about some change, I am Rising Up to help end gun violence. I urge each of you to find a cause that you are passionate about and Rise Up. Equal pay in the work place, the right to have a mammogram or pap smear at a reasonable cost, mental health, ending gun violence, veteran affairs, education, homelessness…. Whatever your cause may be. Join a group of women and Rise Up. Let your voice be heard. We can make a difference.
“We will not be stupid girls. We will not be powerless girls. We will not be useless girls.” -Margaret Peterson Haddix.
We will change the world. Let’s start some Uprisings!
I would love to hear what causes YOU are passionate about and are important to you. Let’s rise together.