"It was the deadliest workplace accident in New York City’s history." opening line of "Triangle Fire" on PBS' American Experience
|Triangle Bldg burning|
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a catastrophe which killed 146 workers trapped in the upper stories of a Manhatten garment factory building. This disaster led to major reform on multiple levels, including establishing maximum working hours, child labor laws and safety regulations.
|Workers at the Triangle Shirt Company|
I first heard of the Triangle Fire in a Women's Studies class in college. It was where I learned about scurrilous working conditions in general and tragedies in specifics. Over the years I've heard it referred to in passing but it seemed to fade away. This year, however, brings a renewal of interest with the 100 year anniversary. I watched the PBS show a few weeks ago. HBO has produced a new documentary as well. It airs tonight, 11pm, on CNN thanks to cooperation between the media entities.
As horrible as it was, the backlash against so many heretofore unchallenged workplace practices began to take effect. The public demanded accountability and safety precautions and protection. The NY Tiimes has a wonderful photographic slide show with accompanying historical information as well as the memorialization and celebration of the victims today and every year. Ironically, the building stands. It was fireproof. NYU uses it for departmental studies and the Times pictorial has a photo of the devastated room below as it looks today.
|Burned out room on 9th floor|