Today marks the sad centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, in which 146 garment workers, mainly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women, perished by either burning or leaping from upper-story windows. It was, as a display set up near my office says, "all over in half an hour." The factory bosses had locked the doors and exits from the outside in order to prevent stealing or the taking of unauthorized breaks, making emergency escape nearly impossible. This ghastly event, witnessed by scores of horrified onlookers, led to meaningful improvements in sweatshop conditions and significant reforms in industrial health and safety guarantees. It radicalized many workers and observers and increased support for the fledgling International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. It also prompted the Factory Investigating Commission of New York State. Frances Perkins, FDR's labor secretary, called March 25, 1911, "the day the New Deal began." Joan Walsh has written an article on Salon today underscoring the beneficent role played in the aftermath of this tragedy by Assemblyman Al Smith, who would later become the governor of New York. There were seven instances of Traingle* (for triangle*) in OhioLINK today, and 74 in WorldCat.
(People and horses draped in black walk in procession in memory of the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, New York City, 1911, from Wikimedia Commons.)