THE TRIANGLE FACTORY FIRE
1. The fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City was one of the worst workplace disasters in the history of labor. The incident highlighted the inhumane working conditions faced by many industrial workers, including low wages, excessively long hours, and an unsanitary and dangerous work environment. The Triangle Waist Company, a shirt factory, was a typical sweatshop in the heart of New York’s garment district. Most of the workers were women, some as young as 15 years old, mostly recent Italian and European Jewish immigrants who had come to the United States with their families to seek a better life. Already struggling with a new language and culture, these workers could not speak out about working conditions for fear of losing their desperately needed jobs, and this forced them to endure exploitation by the factory owners.
2. On March 25, 1911, one of the five hundred employees of the Triangle Waist factory noticed that a rag bin near her eighth-floor workstation was on fire. She and her co-workers immediately tried to extinguish the flames, but their efforts proved futile, and piles of fabric igniteti all over the eighth floor. The factory manager ordered his employees to unroll the fire extinguisher hose, but they found it rotted and useless. Panic erupted as the fire spread.
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3 The shirt factory occupied the top three floors of the ten-story Asch Building. The seventy employees who worked on the tenth floor escaped the fire by way of the staircases or by climbing onto the roof, where students from New York University, located across the street, stretched ladders over to the Asch Building. The 260 workers on the ninth floor had the worst luck of all. Although the eighth-floor workers tried to warn them by telephone, the call did not reach them, and by the time the ninth-floor workers learned about the fire, their routes of escape were mostly blocked. When they found many of the exit doors locked, some managed to climb down the cables of the freight elevator. Others crammed into one narrow stairway. Still others climbed onto the single, inadequately constructed fire escape. However, the fire escape led nowhere, and it bent under the weight of hundreds of workers trying to escape. The spindly structure separated from the wall, falling to the ground and carrying many people with it.
4. To combat the disaster, the New York Fire Department sent thirty-five pieces of equipment, including a hook and ladder. The young women trapped on the ninth floor waited on the window ledges to be rescued, only to discover that the ladder, fully raised, stopped far below them at the sixth floor. Water from the hoses could not reach the top floors, and many workers chose to jump to their deaths rather than to burn alive. Within minutes, the factory was consumed by flame, killing 146 workers, mostly immigrant women. City officials set up a temporary morgue in a building on 26th Street, and over the next few days streams of survivors filed through the building to identify the dead.
5. The ten-story Asch Building was a firetrap typical of the working conditions of the period, and the Triangle fire tragically illustrated that fire inspections and safety precautions were very inadequate. The victims of the fire were trapped by the lack of fire escapes and by management’s practice of locking the exit doors during work hours. The incident had a profound impact on women’s unionism and job safety, affecting local and national politics in the process. An era of progressive reform began to sweep the nation, as people decided that government had a responsibility to ensure that private industry protected the welfare of workers. There was a public outcry for laws to regulate workplace safety. The New York Factory Investigating Commission was formed to examine the conditions in factories throughout the state, and their report led to many new regulations in the years following the fire.
6. The fire at the Triangle Waist Company highlighted the excesses of industrialism. The tragedy remains in the collective memory of the labor movement, and the victims of the tragedy are still honored as martyrs at the hands of industrial greed.
14. All of the following characterized the factory 18. of the Triangle Waist Company EXCEPT
(A) unsafe working conditions
(B) a large number of female workers
(C) a strong labor union
(D) workrooms on three floors
15. Which sentence below best expresses the 19. essential information in the highlighted sentence in paragraph 1? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
(A) Because they did not speak the same language as the factory owners, the 20. workers were not able to discuss conditions in the factory.
(B) Language and culture were serious problems in the workplace, but workers were even more afraid of being exploited by the factory owners.
(C) The factory owners forced the workers to learn a new language and culture because 21. it was necessary for them to succeed in their jobs.
(D) The workers experienced cultural difficulties, poor conditions, and exploitation without complaint because they needed their jobs.
16. The word ignited in paragraph 2 is closest in meaning to
(A) disappeared 22.
(B) caught fire
(D) were thrown out
17. Why does the author mention the fire extinguisher hose in paragraph 2?
(A) To emphasize the unsafe working 23 conditions
(B) To show the manager’s leadership skills
(C) To illustrate the factory’s modem technology
(D) To explain how the fire was eventually put out
18. According to the passage, how did many workers on the top floor manage to escape the fire?
(A) On the fire escape
(B) On the elevator
(C) On ladders
(D) On ropes
19. The phrase Still others in paragraph 3 refers to
(A) students from New York University
(B) eighth-floor workers
(C) ninth-floor workers
(D) routes of escape
20. The word spindly in paragraph 3 is closest in meaning to
21. It can be inferred from paragraph 4 that
(A) New York had a well-equipped fire department
(B) fire fighters rescued everyone the ninth floor
(C) the women on the window ledges did not escape
(D) several workers took the stairs to the sixth floor
22. The author argues that the cause of the disaster was
(A) a careless worker with a cigarette
(B) the poor telephone system in the factory
(C) the slow response by the fire department
(D) the lack of fire safety measures
23. In stating that an era of progressive reform began to sweep the nation, the author means that
(A) more people criticized the government
(B) the idea of reform became widespread
(C) workers were required to join labor unions
(D) social reformers caused many problems
24. It can be inferred from the passage that the author most likely believes which of the following statements?
(A) The Triangle Waist Company had been a progressive business before the tragic fire.
(B) The owners of the Triangle factory did not know about the unsafe working conditions.
(C) The Triangle fire increased awareness of workplace safety and led to necessary reform.
(D) The government’s job is to regulate the excesses and greed of labor unionism.
25. Look at the four squares [A], [B], [C], [D] which indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage. Where would the sentence best fit?
The International Ladies Garment Workers Union increased its efforts to improve working conditions in factories. [A] The ten-story Asch Building was a firetrap typical of the working conditions of the period, and the Triangle fire tragically illustrated that fire inspections and safety precautions were very inadequate. [B] The victims of the fire were trapped by the lack of fire escapes and by management’s practice of locking the exit doors during work hours. The incident had a profound impact on women’s unionism and job safety, affecting local and national politics in the process. [C] An era of progressive reform began to sweep the nation, as people decided that government had a responsibility to ensure that private industry protected the welfare of workers. [D] There was a public outcry for laws to regulate workplace safety. The New York Factory Investigating Commission was formed to examine the conditions in factories throughout the state, and their report led to many new regulations in the years following the fire.
26. Read the first sentence of a summary of the passage. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.
The 1911 fire at the Triangle Waist Company was one of the worst tragedies in labor history.
(A) The garment industry in New York City employed a large number of Italian and Jewish workers.
(B) The fire occurred even though factory owners had invested a lot of money in fire safety equipment.
(C) The fire spread quickly through the factory, killing 146 workers who were mostly immigrant women.
(D) The tragedy exposed the unsafe working conditions and inadequate fire precautions of the time.
(E) After the fire, a group of labor unions assisted the survivors of the fire and families of fire victims.
(F) Public outrage about the fire led to a series of reforms, including laws to regulate workplace safety.