Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Babe Ruth: The Slugger" from VOA

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I'm Shirley Griffith.

DOUG JOHNSON: And I'm Doug Johnson with the Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell about a person important in the history of the United States. Today, we tell about Babe Ruth, America's greatest baseball player. Some say he was the greatest sports hero of all time.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: George Herman Ruth was born in Baltimore, Maryland in eighteen ninety-five. George's parents owned a bar where people came to drink alcohol. His mother died when he was very young. His father was killed in a street fight.

Young George was forced to live on the streets of Baltimore. He stole things. He fought with other children. He got into trouble. At the age of eight, he was sent to live at Saint Mary's industrial school for boys. Catholic religious workers operated the school. The religious workers helped George to act better. And they taught him how to play baseball.

Young Babe Ruth
DOUG JOHNSON: By the age of eighteen, George was an excellent baseball player. In nineteen fourteen, a teacher at the school wrote to a friend of his, Jack Dunn. Dunn was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles minor league baseball team. He was the one who decided who would play for the team. The teacher invited Dunn to see the young player.

Dunn watched George pitch the baseball. He offered the young left-handed pitcher a job playing baseball for six months. He said the Baltimore Orioles team would pay George six hundred dollars.

Jack Dunn had to take responsibility for the boy or George could not leave the school. Dunn decided to become George's legal parent.

Jack Dunn and his new player arrived at the Orioles' baseball park. The older Orioles' players joked about the new young player. They called him, "Dunn's babe. " The young baseball player became known forever as Babe Ruth.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: That year, the Boston Red Sox baseball team bought the right to make Babe Ruth a player for their team. Ruth pitched for the Red Sox teams during the next two years. He became the best pitcher in the American baseball league. Then the Red Sox discovered that he could hit the ball even better than he could throw it. So Ruth became an outfielder instead of a pitcher. In nineteen nineteen, he hit the ball out of the baseball park twenty-nine times. He hit more home runs than any other player that year.


DOUG JOHNSON: In nineteen twenty, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth's contract to the famous New York Yankees baseball team. That year, Babe Ruth hit fifty-four home runs. This was more home runs than any other American League team hit that season. The next year, he hit fifty-nine home runs. Babe Ruth's baseball skill and friendly nature made him famous across the country and around the world.

Many people came to the Yankee games just because they wanted to see Babe Ruth play. He helped the team earn a great deal of money. The Yankees built a new baseball stadium in nineteen twenty-three. It was known as "The House that Ruth Built. "

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Baseball fans loved Babe Ruth because he was what some people called "larger than life. " Sports writer Paul Gallico wrote that Babe Ruth played ball in the same intense way that he lived his life. Gallico said that whenever Ruth hit a ball out of the baseball park the fans would become so excited that they were ready to break the seats. It was impossible to watch Ruth swing his bat without experiencing a strong emotion. In fact, in nineteen twenty, a man reportedly died of excitement while watching Babe Ruth hit a home run.

The name of Babe Ruth appeared so often in the newspapers that sports writers thought up new names for him. They called him "The Sultan of Swat." "The King of Clout." "The Babe. " They called him "Bambino." Sometimes they shortened that name to "Bam. "

DOUG JOHNSON: Babe Ruth led the New York Yankees to seven championships, including four World Series titles. He hit more home runs than any other baseball player. In nineteen twenty-seven, he hit sixty home runs. During his lifetime, he hit a total of seven hundred fourteen home runs. Before he became a power hitter, he had been among the best pitchers of his time. All these skills made Babe Ruth the greatest player baseball has ever had.

In nineteen thirty, Ruth earned eighty thousand dollars. This was more money than the president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, earned that year. Reporters asked Ruth why he should be paid more than President Hoover. Ruth reportedly said: "Why not? I had a better year than he did."

Ruth also earned money by permitting his name to be used on many products. A candy bar was named after him. "Baby Ruth" candy bars still are popular today.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Sometimes, Babe Ruth got into trouble on the baseball field. He often arrived late. He got angry often. He hit a baseball umpire. He had many disputes with the chief baseball official.

In nineteen twenty-one, the Yankees' manager suspended Ruth from playing. The next year, Ruth did the worst thing a baseball player could do. He left the field during a game to chase a fan who said something he did not like. He had to pay five thousand dollars for violating the rules.

DOUG JOHNSON: Babe Ruth also got into trouble off the baseball field. He was a very large man who liked to have a good time. He ate too much. He drank too much alcohol. He played cards and lost money. He went to nightclubs. He drove his car too fast.

Some people were unhappy about the way he acted. In nineteen twenty-two, New York State Senator Jimmy Walker appealed to Babe Ruth at a dinner of the baseball writers association. Mr. Walker asked the great baseball star to be a better example to the children of America. Babe Ruth stood up with tears running down his face. He promised he would be a better person. He kept his promise. He was never in trouble again.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Yet Babe Ruth continued to eat too much. In nineteen twenty-five, he was returning on a train from baseball spring training in the South. He became hungry. He stopped at a train station. He reportedly ate twelve hot dog sandwiches. He drank eight bottles of soft drink.

Ruth developed severe stomach problems. He was taken to a hospital in New York. Babe Ruth was so sick that doctors had to operate on him. He was in the hospital for seven weeks. Many Americans worried about him until he got well.


DOUG JOHNSON: Babe Ruth loved children. In nineteen twenty-six, a child named Johnny Sylvester lay in a hospital bed. He was very weak after an operation. His doctor thought that a visit from Johnny's hero might help the boy get better. So Babe Ruth came to the hospital. He wrote his name on a baseball and gave it to Johnny. He promised to hit a home run that afternoon for the boy. Babe Ruth kept his promise. In fact, he hit three home runs that day.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: There are many stories about Babe Ruth and his life. Experts do not agree about which ones are true. The most famous story about him concerns the nineteen thirty-two World Series championship game. The Yankees were playing the Chicago Cubs in Chicago. Ruth was at bat getting ready to hit. The Cubs and their fans were trying to make Ruth angry. They insulted him. Ruth swung his bat and missed the first pitch. The crowd laughed at him. Ruth swung and missed the second pitch. The crowd made more noises. Then Ruth pointed his bat at the seats past the center field of the ball park. He showed the crowd where he would hit the next ball. And that was exactly where he hit the ball out of the park.


DOUG JOHNSON: Ruth stopped playing baseball in nineteen thirty-five. The next year he was one of the first five players to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. After he retired as a player, he wanted to be manager of a baseball team. But no such position was offered to him. Ruth died in nineteen forty-eight of throat cancer. He was fifty-three years old.

Babe Ruth is buried near New York City. People still come to visit his burial place. They leave things there: A Yankees baseball hat. A small American flag. A baseball. Americans leave these things to show that they have not forgotten the Babe.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith.

DOUG JOHNSON: And I'm Doug Johnson. Listen again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.


1. 1. Babe Ruth’s real first name was _________________________ .
a: Ruth
b: George
c: Herman
d: Fernando
2. One of Babe Ruth’s many nicknames was __________________________ .
a: Ace
b: the Sultan of Swat
c: Deuce
d: Gorgeous George
3. Babe Ruth grew up _____________________________.
a: in a wealthy family
b: in an orphanage
c: in New York City
d: under a bridge
4. Babe Ruth began his professional big league baseball career with ________________________.
a: the New York Yankees
b: the Baltimore Orioles
c: the Boston Red Sox
d: the Havana Sugar Kings
As a young player, Babe Ruth was _____________________________ .
a: an excellent pitcher
b: a very powerful hitter
c: a swift base runner
d: all of the above
6. Babe Ruth had his best years as a member of the ______________________ .
a: Yankees
b: Orioles
c: Red Sox
d: Braves
7. In 1930, Babe Ruth said that he was paid more than Herbert Hoover, the president of the United States at the time because ______________________ .
a: Ruth had a better year than Hoover
b: Hoover generously donated his salary to a charity for hungry people
c: the U.S. government went bankrupt that year
d: baseball players made the important political decisions that year
8. In 1927, Babe Ruth ___________________________________ .
a: had a serious stomach illness
b: set a record for the most home runs in one season
c: was the top pitcher in the American League
d: was traded to the Boston Red Sox
9. After he finished his baseball career, Babe Ruth __________________________ .
a: became a successful manager with the New York Giants
b: became the governor of New York
c: opened a chain of restaurants called Babe’s Place
d: wanted to manage but was never given the opportunity
10. Babe Ruth died in 1947 ________________________ .
a: of throat cancer
b: as the richest man in New York City
c: without a penny
d: trying to save a young boy’s life

This is a very professionally done documentary about Babe Ruth with a number of interesting interviews. It's worth watching.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Doctor John H. Holliday: Gunfighter" from VOA.

This is Phoebe Zimmermann. And this is Doug Johnson with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Many stories have been told about the old American West. Some are true. Many more are just interesting stories. Today we will try to tell the true story of one of the most famous and dangerous American gun fighters. His name was John Henry Holliday. He was better known as "Doc".


The little city of Glenwood Springs is deep in the Rocky Mountains in the western state of Colorado. The mountains here rise sharply out of the ground and surround Glenwood Springs.

A small burial area in Glenwood Springs is called the Pioneer Cemetery. You have to walk up a steep hill on an old dirt road to reach it. The walk takes about twenty minutes. Visitors can stop at several places along this walk to look at the city far blow.

In the cemetery, large stones mark most of the burial places. Some of the stones look new. Many are more than one hundred years old.

A dirt path leads to the back of the cemetery and one, lone, burial place. This one is the reason most people come to the Pioneer Cemetery. The stone over the burial place is colored red, and larger than most of the others. A small black metal fence surrounds the grave.

The name on the stone says "Doc Holliday… He died in bed." This man's real name was John Henry Holliday. He was called "Doc" because he was a doctor of dental surgery, a dentist. But he was best known as a gunfighter and gambler, a person who plays games of chance for money. Many people who knew him considered him the most dangerous man in the Old West.

It is extremely difficult to separate truth from the false stories that were spread about some of the more famous people in the Old West. Many of these famous stories are very interesting and exciting. But they are not true. Many of these made-up stories tell about the man who was Doc Holliday.

History experts say he was a very dangerous man because he was already dying when he came to the West. He knew he had the lung disease tuberculosis that causes a slow death. Many experts said he was not afraid of a gunfight. He thought a quick death from a bullet might be better than waiting to die a very slow, painful death from the disease.

Another interesting fact about Doc Holliday is that many history experts now believe he may have spread several of the stories that were told about him. He may have done this because it caused people to fear him. If they feared him, they would not cause him trouble. It was not difficult to find trouble in many towns in the American West. And disputes about who had won a game of chance were always a possibility for a professional gambler like Doc Holliday.


John Henry Holliday was born in the southern state of Georgia in eighteen fifty-one. He was born into a family that included several medical doctors and dentists. Like most young men of the American South at that time, John Henry Holliday learned to ride a horse well. He learned to shoot several kinds of weapons.

He also was well educated. He learned math and science. He learned to read, write and speak Greek, Latin and French.

A young black women who worked for his family taught him to play card games. John Holliday became a very good card player. He could easily remember which cards had been played in a game. This was very difficult to do. It helped him much later in life when he became a professional gambler.

In eighteen seventy, John became a student at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia. He graduated in eighteen seventy-two.

John Holliday was a tall man. He was thin and always dressed well. He was a quiet, friendly man who always smiled. People liked him. Doctor Holliday began working as a dentist in the southern city of Atlanta, Georgia. He soon began to show the signs of tuberculosis, the same disease that had killed his mother. His doctor said he would live longer if he went to a warm, very dry place -- perhaps the American West.

In eighteen seventy-three, John Holliday said goodbye to his family and left Georgia on a train. He began his new life in the western city of Dallas, Texas.


Doctor Holliday tried to work as a dentist for about four years. He was not very successful. Many people did not want to be treated by a dentist they knew had tuberculosis. He spent a great deal of time drinking alcohol in a saloon. It was here that be became known as "Doc" Holliday.

Holliday traveled in Texas and Colorado for the next several years. He became a professional gambler. In eighteen seventy-seven, he was living in the small town of Fort Griffin, Texas. Here he met a man who was to become one of his best friends. That man was a former law officer, gunfighter and gambler. His name was Wyatt Earp. Soon after meeting Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday killed a man during a card game.

The man had reached for a gun. Doc Holliday was much quicker using a long knife. He had to leave Fort Griffin and Texas very quickly.

The friendship continued between Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. In Dodge City, Kansas, Holliday saved Earp's life late one night. A man drew his gun behind Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday yelled a warning, drew his gun and shot the man.

Wyatt Earp had several brothers. They were a close family. Many experts believe that the Earp brothers were a replacement for the family Doc Holliday had left in Georgia. Wyatt and his brothers Morgan and Virgil remained close friends with Doc Holliday for the rest of their lives.

Doc Holliday had become well known in the West. He became even more famous after he followed the Earp brothers to the town of Tombstone, Arizona. In Tombstone he took part in the most famous shooting incident in western history.


That shooting incident in Tombstone is known as "The Gunfight at the OK Corral." It took place on October twenty-sixth, eighteen eighty-one. It involved Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday. Virgil Earp was an officer of the law. He was on his way to arrest several men. Wyatt and Morgan went with him to help.

Doc Holliday joined them as they walked down the street. The men they were going to arrest were also brothers -- Ike and Billy Clanton and Frank and Tom McLaury.

As the two groups came together, Virgil Earp demanded that the Clantons and McLaurys raise their hands and surrender. They refused. No one knows who fired the first shot. All the men began shooting at once.

When it was over, Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury were dead. Ike Clanton had run away. Morgan and Virgil Earp were wounded, but they survived. Neither Doc Holliday nor Wyatt Earp was hurt.

Political enemies of the Earp Brothers wanted a trial. The Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday were arrested and tried. The jury found them innocent. It said they were trying to disarm a group of men who wanted a fight.

A few months later, an unknown gunman killed Morgan Earp. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday began to hunt the killers. They killed several men known to have been involved in the murder of Morgan Earp.

No one really knows how many gunfights Doc Holliday took part in. No one knows just how many people died as a result. Some books say he was responsible for the deaths of as many as thirty men. But most experts say the number is closer to eight.

History books will tell you Doc Holliday was arrested several times. Most of the time he was arrested for playing illegal games of chance. He was also arrested after several shootings. Often the charges were dismissed because he was only defending himself. The few times he faced a criminal trial he was found to be innocent.

In the last years of Doc Holliday's life, the West had changed a great deal. The people there no longer wanted gunfighters or gamblers.

Doc Holliday may have won in games of chance and in several gunfights. However, he could not use his guns against tuberculosis. He died in his bed, in the little city of Glenwood Springs, Colorado on November eighth, eighteen eighty-seven. He was thirty-six years old.


This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. This is Doug Johnson. And this is Phoebe Zimmermann. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"How Keesh Hunted Bear" by Jack London

SHEP O'NEAL: Keesh lived at the edge of the polar sea. He had seen thirteen suns in the Eskimo way of keeping time. Among the Eskimos, the sun each winter leaves the land in darkness. And the next year, a new sun returns, so it might be warm again.

The father of Keesh had been a brave man. But he had died hunting for food. Keesh was his only son. Keesh lived along with his mother, Ikeega.

One night, the village council met in the big igloo of Klosh-kwan, the chief. Keesh was there with the others. He listened, then waited for silence.

He said, “It is true that you give us some meat. But it is often old and tough meat, and has many bones.”

The hunters were surprised. This was a child speaking against them. A child talking like a grown man!

Keesh said, “My father, Bok, was a great hunter. It is said that Bok brought home more meat than any of the two best hunters. And that he divided the meat so that all got an equal share.”

“Naah! Naah!” the hunters cried. “Put the child out! Send him to bed. He should not talk to gray-beards this way!”

Keesh waited until the noise stopped. “You have a wife, Ugh-gluk,” he said. “And you speak for her. My mother has no one but me. So I speak. As I say, Bok hunted greatly, but is now dead. It is only fair then that my mother, who was his wife, and I, his son, should have meat when the tribe has meat. I, Keesh, son of Bok, have spoken.”

Again, there was a great noise in the igloo. The council ordered Keesh to bed. It even talked of giving him no food.

Keesh jumped to his feet. “Hear me!” he cried. “Never shall I speak in the council igloo again. I shall go hunt meat like my father, Bok.”

There was much laughter when Keesh spoke of hunting. The laughter followed Keesh as he left the council meeting.

The next day, Keesh started out for the shore, where the land meets the ice. Those who watched saw that he carried his bow and many arrows. Across his shoulder was his father’s big hunting spear. Again there was laughter.

One day passed, then a second. On the third day, a great wind blew. There was no sign of Keesh. His mother, Ikeega, put burned seal oil on her face to show her sorrow. The women shouted at their men for letting the little boy go. The men made no answer, but got ready to search for the body of Keesh.

Early next morning, Keesh walked into the village. Across his shoulders was fresh meat. “Go you men, with dogs and sleds. Follow my footsteps. Travel for a day,” he said. “There is much meat on the ice. A she-bear and her two cubs.”

His mother was very happy. Keesh, trying to be a man, said to her, “Come, Ikeega, let us eat. And after that, I shall sleep. For I am tired.”

There was much talk after Keesh went to his igloo. The killing of a bear was dangerous. But it was three times more dangerous to kill a mother bear with cubs. The men did not believe Keesh had done so. But the women pointed to the fresh meat. At last, the men agreed to go for the meat that was left. But they were not very happy.

One said that even if Keesh had killed the bear, he probably had not cut the meat into pieces. But when the men arrived, they found that Keesh had not only killed the bear, but had also cut it into pieces, just like a grown hunter.

So began the mystery of Keesh.

On his next trip, he killed a young bear…and on the following trip, a large male bear and its mate.

Then there was talk of magic and witchcraft in the village. “He hunts with evil spirits,” said one. “Maybe his father’s spirit hunts with him,” said another.

Keesh continued to bring meat to the village. Some people thought he was a great hunter. There was talk of making him chief, after old Klosh-kwan. They waited, hoping he would come to council meetings. But he never came.

“I would like to build an igloo.” Keesh said one day, “but I have no time. My job is hunting. So it would be just if the men and women of the village who eat my meat, build my igloo.” And the igloo was built. It was even bigger than the igloo of the Chief Klosh-kwan.

One day, Ugh-gluk talked to Keesh. “It is said that you hunt with evil spirits, and they help you kill the bear.”

“Is not the meat good?” Keesh answered. “Has anyone in the village yet become sick after eating it? How do you know evil spirits are with me? Or do you say it because I am a good hunter?”

Ugh-gluk had no answer.

The council sat up late talking about Keesh and the meat. They decided to spy on him.

On Keesh’s next trip, two young hunters, Bim and Bawn, followed him. After five days, they returned. The council met to hear their story.

“Brothers,” Bim said, “we followed Keesh, and he did not see us. The first day he came to a great bear. Keesh shouted at the bear, loudly. The bear saw him and became angry. It rose high on its legs and growled. But Keesh walked up to it.”

“We saw it,” Bawn, the other hunter, said. “The bear began to run toward Keesh. Keesh ran away. But as he ran, he dropped a little round ball on the ice. The bear stopped and smelled the ball, then ate it. Keesh continued to run, dropping more balls on the ice. The bear followed and ate the balls.”

The council members listened to every word. Bim continued the story. “The bear suddenly stood up straight and began to shout in pain.

“Evil spirits,” said Ugh-gluk.

I do not know,” said Bawn. “I can tell only what my eyes saw. The bear grew weak. Then it sat down and pulled at its own fur with its sharp claws. Keesh watched the bear that whole day.”

“For three more days, Keesh continued to watch the bear. It was getting weaker and weaker. Keesh moved carefully up to the bear and pushed his father’s spear into it.”

“And then?” asked Klosh-kwan.

“And then we left.”

That afternoon, the council talked and talked. When Keesh arrived in the village, the council sent a messenger to ask him to come to the meeting. But Keesh said he was tired and hungry. He said his igloo was big and could hold many people, if the council wanted a meeting.

Klosh-kwan led the council to the igloo of Keesh. Keesh was eating, but he welcomed them. Klosh-kwan told Keesh that two hunters had seen him kill a bear. And then, in a serious voice to Keesh, he said, “We want to know how you did it.” Did you use magic and witchcraft?”

Keesh looked up and smiled. “No, Klosh-kwan. I am a boy. I know nothing of magic or witchcraft. But I have found an easy way to kill the ice-bear. It is head-craft, not witchcraft.”

“And will you tell us, O Keesh?” Klosh-kwan asked in a shaking voice.

“I will tell you. It is very simple. Watch.”

Keesh picked up a thin piece of whalebone. The ends were pointed and sharp as a knife. Keesh bent the bone into a circle. Suddenly he let the bone go, and it became straight with a sharp snap. He picked up a piece of seal meat.

“So,” he said, “first make a circle with a sharp, thin piece of whale bone. Put the circle of bone inside some seal meat. Put it in the snow to freeze. The bear eats the ball of meat with the circle of bone inside. When the meat gets inside the bear, the meat gets warm, and the bone goes snap! The sharp points make the bear sick. It is easy to kill then. It is simple.”

Ugh-gluk said, “Ohhh!” Klosh-kwan said “Ahh!” Each said something in his own way. And all understood.

That is the story of Keesh, who lived long ago on the edge of the polar sea. Because he used head-craft, instead of witchcraft, he rose from the poorest igloo to be the chief in the village. And for all the years that followed, his people were happy. No one cried at night with pains of hunger.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: You have just heard the story, "Keesh." It was written by Jack London. Your storyteller was Shep O’Neal. This is Shirley Griffith.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911" from VOA

MARIO RITTER: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Mario Ritter. This week, music from banjo-playing singer Abigail Washburn. And we answer a timely question about a tragic fire one hundred years ago that changed working conditions in American factories.


Triangle Factory Fire

MARIO RITTER: Our question comes from Bogota, Colombia. It is such a big question this week that both Faith Lapidus and I will answer it together.

Mercedes asks about a fire at an American factory that killed many women workers who were locked inside.

That tragic event was the Triangle Waist Company factory fire. It happened in the Greenwich Village area of New York City on March twenty-fifth, nineteen eleven. The fire in the upper three floors of the ten-floor building was over in less than half an hour.

But one hundred forty-six people were killed in that short time. The large majority were young women, some of them girls.

It was the worst workplace disaster in New York City history until the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in two thousand one.

A shirtwaist was a main piece of clothing for women at the time. The Triangle Waist Company was the largest maker of these garments. Isaac Harris and Max Blanck owned the business and were known as the “Shirtwaist Kings.”

Experts say they were successful, in part, because of the complete lack of protections for workers in those days. There were no rules about pay, hours or safety. The employees at Triangle generally worked fourteen-hour days, six days a week. Most were young, female and immigrants. They had to pay for their materials and any sewing mistakes they made.

Max Blanck and Isaac Harris also had little trust in their workers. And this lack of trust led to many of the deaths that spring day.

The fire broke out just before five o’clock in the afternoon. The workers were minutes from ending their work day. Reports say the fire started on the eighth floor, probably from a cigarette in a waste container.

The many hanging shirtwaists fed the fire. It spread very quickly. There was telephone service from the eighth to the tenth floor where the owners were. Mr. Blanck and Mr. Harris were warned about the fire. They climbed to the roof and then to another building.

But the workers on the ninth floor did not know of the fire until the smoke and flames surrounded them.


FAITH LAPIDUS: The building had no water sprinkler system, although others in the city did. It also had just one fire escape – metal stairs on the outside of the building. Some of the workers were able to climb down the fire escape before the poorly made metal structure collapsed.

Other workers tried to ride the elevator down to the first floor. But in time the fire blocked it. Many victims then jumped down the elevator shaft to avoid being burned.

Some workers tried to escape through an exit door to a stairwell. But soon fire and smoke made it impassable. Workers then raced to another door that led to another set of stairs. But they could not open the door. Earlier, the door had been locked from the outside so the workers could not leave early or steal anything.

Women began to gather at the windows of the burning building. A huge crowd had gathered below. The women were yelling for help. They crawled out onto the edges of the windows. People in the crowd screamed “Don’t jump.” But some of workers jumped to their death. When the fire engines arrived the ladders reached only to the sixth floor.

It was over just a few minutes after the fire fighters arrived. One hundred twenty-nine women and girls and seventeen men were dead. The youngest victim was fourteen-year-old Rosaria Maltese. She had come to the United States from Italy four years earlier. Her mother and sister died with her in the fire.

Most of the victims were Jewish women, many from Russia. One victim, Fannie Rosen, had only been in the United States for six months. It was her second day on the job at Triangle Waist Company.

Just last month, the remaining unidentified victims of the Triangle fire were finally named. The work was done by researcher Michael Hirsch. Mr. Hirsch became interested in the fire after he learned that one of its victims lived on the same street he lives on in the East Village area of New York.

Mr. Hirsch’s four years of work will make a big difference at the one hundredth anniversary observance March twenty-fifth. For the first time, the names of all the fire’s victims will be read at a memorial service at the building where the tragedy happened.


MARIO RITTER: Two years before the fire, a Triangle workers’ strike led to a huge general strike of women garment workers in New York City. The women were demanding the right to organize for safer working conditions, better pay and other rights. While many garment workers in other factories joined unions as a result, the Triangle workers did not. The fire was seen as even more tragic because of this.

Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were charged with responsibility for the deaths from the fire. However, they were found not guilty. They received insurance money and continued in the business. In fact, Mr. Blanck again locked workers in a factory in nineteen thirteen. He was arrested and fined a small amount.

However, many things did change as a result of the Triangle tragedy. A special committee was created to investigate factory and worker safety in workplaces across the state. It reported many violations and supported new safety laws. And the International Ladies Garment Workers Union gained many members, greater respect and more power.

The Triangle factory fire is being remembered this month. The Public Broadcasting System’s television program “American Experience” broadcast a documentary called “Triangle Fire.” The cable channel HBO is also broadcasting a documentary co-produced by Michael Hirsch. It is to air on the anniversary weekend of March twenty-fifth. New York University has a special exhibit about the tragedy. NYU now owns the building which housed the Triangle Waist Company. Other related stage and art shows are also being held in the city.


Abigail Washburn


Abigail Washburn writes and performs songs influenced by bluegrass music. She has made albums with the traditional music band Uncle Earl and a group of musicians called The Sparrow Quartet. Washburn recently released her second album performing on her own. “City of Refuge” is influenced by bluegrass as well as other kinds of music. Bob Doughty tells us more.


BOB DOUGHTY: That was the song “Corner Girl” from Abigail Washburn’s latest album, “City of Refuge.” You can hear her playing the banjo, a traditional bluegrass instrument. But Washburn is also influenced by other kinds of music.

One song on her new album includes folk singers from Mongolia. On others you can hear the traditional Chinese instrument called the guzheng.

Abigail Washburn has a special love for China. She speaks Mandarin and has spent time living, travelling and performing in China. She has said that trying to create an album completely free of Chinese influence would be like ignoring a big part of who she is.

Here is the song “Chains,” which has a very different sound.


Abigail Washburn says she considers herself an outsider or foreigner in most situations because she has traveled so much in her life. But she says that music gives her a feeling of being home. She says music is a refuge because it offers common ground for all people. We leave you with her new album’s title song, “City of Refuge.”


MARIO RITTER: I’m Mario Ritter. Our program was written by Dana Demange and Caty Weaver who was also the producer.

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