Friday, March 25th is the 100 anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. 146 women died in the fire, the deadliest industrial disaster in NYC history. Management routinely locked the exits during the workday, which on March 25, 1911 left many of the women with choice of incineration inside or jumping to the ground and certain death from as high as ten floors.
On April 5, 1911, 100,000 marched in a funeral procession and another 300,000 crowded the sidewalks along the the lower east side route.
Mourners transformed their grief into organizing. Just three days earlier, union activist Rose Schneiderman told a packed memorial at the old metropolitan Opera House:
We have tried you citizens; we are trying you now, and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers, brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us....I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement."
Organizing came in the form of strikes and actions over the following decade that built the International Ladies Garment and Workers Union.
One hundred years later, scores of events have been organized to commemorate the Triangle Fire and the organizing that followed in its wake.
Some events of note:
Women's Rights and Women's Clothes
Kathy Peiss, University of Pennsylvania
Daniel Cole, FIT
Janie Bryant, costume designer, Mad Men
Stories from the audience about using clothing to win respect in the workplace
Friday, March 18, 5:30 pm
Katie Murphy Amphitheater, D Building, Fashion Institute of Technology
Not One More Fire!
Kalpona Akter, Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity
Bjorn Claeson, International Labor Rights Forum
Mitch Cahn, Unionwear
Sweatshop and non-sweatshop fashion
Wednesday, March 23, 5:30 pm,
Great Hall, D Building, Fashion Institute of Technology
Out of the Smoke and the Flame:
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and its Legacy
All Day Event Sponsored by the Murphy Center
Thursday, March 24, 9 am to 6:30 pm
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue
Registration is Free and Open to the Public
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Centennial Commemoration
At former home of the Triangle Waist Company:
corner of Washington Place & Greene Street, NYC.
(one block east of Washington Square Park)
Join the NYC labor community in the commemoration of the Centennial of the Triangle Fire.
Friday, March 25, 11:00am – 1:30pm
To learn more about the Triangle fire:
- Cornell University - ILR School - The Triangle Factory Fire: An online exhibit.
- Triangle Fire on PBS: A website for the American Experience video with lots of resources. Click here for a separate website where you can watch the video.
- Labor Arts -- The Triangle Fire One Hundred Years After: Labor Arts is a virtual museum that gathers, identifies and displays images of the cultural artifacts of working people and their organizations. The site has mounted an impressive exhibit of the Triangle fire.