Thursday, March 24, 2011

Today in History: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire March 25, 1911

"The Triangle Waist Company was located one block east of Washington Square Park. There were over 500 employees – most were young women, most were recent immigrants. March 25, 1911 a fire broke out on the 8th floor. The workers ran to the fire escape. It collapsed, dropping them to their death. On the 9th floor a critical exit was locked. People on the street watched as the workers began to jump out the windows. Fire trucks arrived but their ladders only reached the 6th floor. The elevators ran as long as they could, workers pressed into the cars; some tumbled down the elevator shaft."

In the end 146 people died. There was a trial but the owners, long known for their anti-union activities, got off. The fire became a rallying cry for the international labor movement. Many of our fire safety laws were created in response to this tragic event.

We remember because we are still fighting for social justice for all."

from the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition

My Lithuanian grandmother, who attended Our Lady of Vilnius, was the same age as many of the women who perished in the fire. Today we pray for their souls and, in their memory,work to obtain respect, safety and fair treatment for all workers.

Learn more at WNYC Archive: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

1 comment:

Ellen Halloran said...

The Triangle Fire was indeed a rallying cry for the international labor movement and the development of labor unions. Today, on the 100th anniversary of this tragedy, workers are being blamed for the country's economic woes. and efforts are underway to roll back their collective bargaining rights. In today's New York Times Clyde Haberman hits the nail on the head - "To hear some people talk, you would think it was workers, not bankers, who brought the country to the brink of economic catastrophe a couple of years ago."
On this day I'm thinking back many years to when I was 16 and Sister Columbine put aside the day's chemistry lesson to teach us about the Triangle Fire. She remembered it as an event that occurred in her childhood and told us she remembered it every year on March 25th.