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The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire


By jimstaro - Posted on 23 March 2011

100 Years After the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

 

Garment workers around 1900. (Credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University, photographer unknown)

23 March 2011 - Turn back the clock on New York City’s garment district to around the year 1900.

“The average work week was 84 hours, 12 hours every day of the week,” said Ellen Rothman with the Jewish Women’s Archive in Brookline, Mass. “During the busy season, the grinding hum of sewing machines never entirely ceased day or night.”

 

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Conditions had begun to improve by 1911, but just slightly. On March 25th of that year, fire erupted at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in lower Manhattan. It was one of the worst workplace disasters in American history: 146 people died, mostly teenage girls and women, immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe and Italians.

Workers had few rights at the time. Garment factories were crowed, noisy and hot. Bathroom breaks were monitored. Workers had their bags inspected when they left for the day. When fire broke out at the Triangle Factory, the exits were locked to prevent theft.

“In trying to escape, there was no choice: be burned alive, or jump. And most of them jumped. And everyone who jumped died,” said Rothman. {continued}

 

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