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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: LEARN IT!

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of March 25, 1911 was the worst industrial disaster in NYC prior to the World Trade Center disaster. 146 people died in this accident – mostly young immigrant women. Because of the lack of workplace safety standards (as well as a couple uncontrollable accidents) these women died – exit doors were locked, there was no sprinkler systems or hoses available, the fire department ladders were not tall enough, there was no warning system in place. These people burned to death, fell to their deaths from windows and down elevator shafts, or were trampled. As a direct result of this disaster many workplace reforms happened.

This year is the 100th anniversary of this disaster and there are many commemorative events taking place around the event date. If you are interested, here are some of the events and links to additional information:
"Fabric, Flames, and Fervor: Girls of the Triangle" – performance piece at the Shelby County Community Theatre (Kentucky). Runs Feb 24-Mar 5.
Join Adelphi University in Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire – There will be a reception, premiere of original music inspired by the victims, a preview screening of HBO’s Triangle: Remembering the Fire and a discussion panel. Adelphi University, NY. Runs Mar 3.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum Tour “Piecing it Together” – a 60 minute tour of Levine family garment shop. The month of March features the reactions of the Jewish community to the disaster (many of the people that died were Jewish). Tenement Museum, NYC. Mar 1-7.
“Triangle” – a play by actress Elaine Ocasio. Check website for performance dates. San Francisco, CA. Mar 5.
“Soliloquy for a Seamstress: The Triangle Factory Fire” – a three character drama portraying two girls who would perish in the fire, their immigrant mother, and a report/witness to the event and subsequent trial. Presented by Widener University, Chester PA. Mar 7.
Joyce Gold Walking Tours – Notorious Women of Washington Square and Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Centennial. Walking tour, NY. Mar 19.
“The Waistmaker’s Opera” – original musical theatre performance telling the story of the labor movement just prior to Triangle. Outdoor and indoor performances. NY. Mar 20.
Centennial Procession of 146 Shirtwaists and Sashes – A procession in honor of those who died featuring shirtwaists, historical photos, etc. NY, Mar 25.

There are many, many other events across the country besides those that I highlighted. To see a complete listing visit the events page at Remember the Triangle Fire.org. If you attend any of these, please come back and share your experiences with us! I would love to hear about it.

Besides all of these centennial events, every year since 2004 there is a public art commemoration on the sidewalks of NYC on March 25th. Volunteers draw with sidewalk chalk commemoratives to the victims of the fire. They travel to where these people lived and draw on the sidewalk to spread the word. Below you will find a slideshow of some of the drawings that have been done. Below the slide show is a Google Map showing all of the locations where these victims lived. A very cool idea! You can find out more about the project and other street projects at StreetPictures.org.

Chalk! Slide Show

Google Map of Where the Victims Lived

There is also a great website from Cornell University featuring many different resources about the Triangle Fire – a timeline, original text documents, models, photographs and more. I used this website a lot in the research I did for my school project (which I have embedded below if you wish to read additional information on the actual fire itself).

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I remember this from way back in highschool and was appalled back then. Such a needless tradegy. Thanks you for bringing it back to the forefront.

  2. Jenny - it is one of the stories that has captured my attention - we never learned about it until my last year in college - and I was surprised by that.

  3. I remember being totally shocked by these events when I first read about them.


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