The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

by Jenni Miller

I snapped this photo outside of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum yesterday, and while I couldn’t make the talk last night, I just wanted to give a belated shout-out to our sisters who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911. The factory was a sweatshop employing young immigrant women who worked in sub par conditions for very little pay. The tragic deaths of 146 workers (including children) spurred safety and labor reform laws and also made the International Ladies Garment Workers Union an even more powerful force in the labor movement.

You can read more about the fire, the trial of the factory owners, and how it changed the law at this excellent website or at Wikipedia, or pick up any number of books about the fire. One of my favorite books is Dreamland by Kevin Baker, which chronicles life in New York City in the turn of the century and discusses the fire, along with a wonderful love story, a very cool heroine, socialists and and lots of lovely Coney Island stories. And if you haven’t already heard Rasputina’s weird and lovely "My Little Shirtwaist Fire," you absolutely must. I can’t find any videos of it on YouTube or clips of it online, but it’s fab. Or catch them live!

Instead, here’s a low-quality YouTube video of them covering Heart’s ‘Barracuda.’

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