today marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City.
on that tragic day, March 25, 1911, a scrap bin on the eighth floor of the Asch Building caught fire. the Triangle Shirtwaist Co., an industrial age garment factory, occupied the top three floors [8-10]. the fire spread quickly. eighth floor workers were aware of the situation and most were evacuated. the switchboard to the offices on the tenth floor helped notify and evacuate practically all tenth floor employees... but ninth floor workers were unaware until the fire was on them and it was too late for escape.
the dangers were compounded by a list of inadequacies in a time predating fire safety or effective labor codes: the doors opened inwards, not out - only one inept fire escape which collapsed under the weight of so many - the elevators were inoperable after only three trips – and most heart breaking of all, it was common practice to lock the exits to prevent workers form leaving their machines.
many of the remaining workers, mostly poor, first generation, immigrant women, chose to jump from the ninth floor windows than be burned alive. when the firemen arrived they provided little help. both ladders and water hoses failed to reach past the sixth floor, and their nets all ruptured from the force of such heights. hundreds amassed below in terror, all incapable of stopping or even helping.
18 minutes - 146 lives- 133 women- lost - to fire, fall and greed.
I wish I had more time to write about this, but there are so many who already have:
Cornell University has a tremendous site dedicated to the fire with time-lines, firsthand accounts, photos and more.
PBS has an episode of the American Experience: Triangle Fire that you can watch online.
the International Labor Rights Forum has a great article entitled the Legacy of the Triangle Factory Fire by Kristi Ellis + Arthur Friedman originally published in Women's Wear Daily.
visit Clean Clothes Campaign to learn more about working conditions in the global garment industry today.
all boldface type will lead to links.
i've been making needlebooks about the Triangle Fire and passing them around today in remembrance of all the women and seamstresses who died that day. i plan to send them out with future etsy orders too. i guess that means i need to get busy and make new items since my etsy cupboard has been bare for fare to long now. today is as good a day to crank up nadine as any.