American Experience Series
February 28, 2011
Source: Received for Preview from WGBH
“It was the deadliest workplace accident in New York City's history. On March 25th, 1911, deadly fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York's Greenwich Village. The blaze ripped through the congested loft as petrified workers -- mostly young immigrant women -- desperately tried to make their way downstairs. By the time the fire burned itself out, 146 people were dead. All but 17 of the dead were women and nearly half were teenagers.”Since learning about the Triangle Fire about 2 years ago it has been one of the subjects in modern American history that has thoroughly captured my attention. When I saw this episode was upcoming in this series I was excited to see how they would portray this event and if it would be more of a documentary style or a re-enactment style. I think that American Experience did a fabulous job with this episode!
There were re-enactments of the factory girls working as well as the drama of the fire itself. The episode also took some time to explain the social situation of the world during which this devastating event took place. There were major unionization movements happening and they did a good job of connecting this to the tragedy – one direct development was that the employers locked the doors because they were afraid of the employees stealing product – so there was only one exit.
I find the episodes much more interesting when they use some primary sources during the show. Words that were said by women who survived the fire as well as that of firemen and viewers gave us a front row seat to the event as it was happening. It was interesting to see the different points of view – a well rounded story.
Of the last few new episodes that have been broadcasted I feel like this one was done the best. I liked having the mix of re-enactment and documentary style. The upheaval and social setting were necessary to understanding the importance of the disaster and the outcomes from it. I would recommend this episode to all. My only criticism is that the episode didn't air closer to the 100th commemoration (which is March 25th of this year). That would have made more sense to me.
Here is a trailer of this show for your enjoyment.
If you are looking for additional content about the Fire - American Experience has some great information. Do you know what a shirtwaist is? What is all of the fuss about? Well, here is an article about just that! You can also find some of the New York Times coverage of the event. You can catch this episode on the American Experience website if you missed it when it premiered.
Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court