01 April 2011

Remembering the Fire

Workers inside the Triangle Waist Company factory.

On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in a Greenwich Village factory that claimed the lives of 146 people and changed labour laws forever. Last Friday, on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered to remember the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

Firefighters try desperately to put out the fire.

The Triangle Waist Company, which manufactured shirtwaists for women, occupied the top three floors of the Asch Building at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street. The company employed mainly female workers, most of whom were Italian and Jewish immigrants. On the afternoon of March 25, 1911, near the end of the work day, a fire broke out on the eighth floor and quickly moved to the rest of the factory. Some workers managed to get out but the main exits were locked and the fire escape outside soon collapsed. The fire department's ladders could only reach to the sixth floor. People on the street below watched in horror as more than 60 people jumped to their deaths. By the end of the day, 146 people were dead, 129 of whom were women.

Some of the victims had picketed for labour changes just the year before.

The fire was the worst industrial accident in New York City history, and it horrified the nation. The tragedy helped to galvanize the labour unions and laws were passed to change poor working conditions.

Newspapers reflected the public's outrage.

On the anniversary of this horrible tragedy people carrying symbolic shirtfronts marched from Union Square Park to the site of the factory. In front of the building, the names of the dead were read out while a single bell tolled, making sure that the victims would not be forgotten.

To find out more about the fire, check out the new HBO documentary Triangle: Remembering the Fire. While some of the images are disturbing to watch (the film includes photos of the bodies), it shouldn't be missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...