In 1911, 146 garment workers perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Most of them were recent immigrants to America, young women of Italian and Jewish descent who worked in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. As a result of the fire and the unnecessary loss of life, working conditions improved for factory workers.
I feel like America in the 2010s is not so different than America in the 1910’s. The unofficial class and wealth divide grows ever larger. We have new immigrants coming into this country every day. While we celebrate their achievements, we simultaneously accuse them of destroying this country. Hate, racism and prejudice still infect our country.
However, there is something to be said for the progress we have made in a century. Women and citizens of color have made tremendous strides to real equality. We live in a technological age that our ancestors might have only dreamed of a century ago.
We need a President who honors the past while striding into the future. I have a feeling that Senator Warren, if she is elected, will do just that.
March 25th, 1911 started as an ordinary day. The employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory clocked in, expecting an ordinary day. But 3/25/11 was destined to become a day that is forever marred by grief and loss.
A fire broke out and spread quickly. 146 workers, mostly young immigrant girls died from the fire.
Like the tragedy of the Titanic a year later, the deaths of innocent people forced the hands of the powers that be to make positive change.
In a few weeks is the 115th anniversary of the fire.
May the memories of those who were lost be a blessing to those who knew them best. May we, the living, learn from the mistakes of our predecessors and not let greed prevent us from doing what is right.
Yesterday marked the 104th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. 146 workers, mostly young immigrant girls, were killed by a fast moving fire inside of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
They came to this country to start a new life. Some of them knew America as der goldene medina (the golden country). America was the land of opportunity where one could grow beyond the emotional and physical barriers that kept them stagnant in their countries of birth. Instead these workers lived on slave wages, went home to overcrowded tenement apartments and worked in sweatshops and factories where the physical working conditions could only be described as inhumane.
The events leading up the factory were industry wide strikes. The strikers, many of whom were female, were striking for better pay, a safe work environment, a reasonable work day and their rights as women. To these women, the Suffragette movement and the idea of working in a safe environment and earning a reasonable paycheck went hand in hand.
Until the fire, the government had a hands off approach to industry. It was only after 146 workers became lambs to the slaughter did the government finally step in.
I honor the memory of these men and women. When the stepped onto the boat to come to America, they were unaware of the fate that lay before them.
In the language of my ancestors I say z”l. In the language of the country that I call home, I say rest in peace. You are gone, but never forgotten.