Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

On March 25, 1911, during the time that Lucia Colosi was pregnant with her daughter Mary, there was a major industrial disaster not far from their home. It is known as the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City and resulted in fourth highest loss of life in an industrial accident in US history.

A fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory resulting in the deaths of 146 garment workers. Most of the victims were Jewish and Italian immigrant girls ranging in age from 16 to 23.  The oldest was 48 and the youngest only 14.

It was common in those days for the managers to lock the stairwell and exit doors to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks. More than 60 person jumped to their deaths, just as many had done in the 9/11 disaster at the World Trade Towers in 2001.

The fire led to legislation that would require improved factory safety standards and it helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. The factory had occupied the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the 10-story Asch Building just east of Washington Square Park, in the Greenwich Village area.

Shirtwaists were a type of women’s blouses, and the factory normally employed about 500 workers who worked nine hours a day on weekdays plus seven hours on Saturdays, and earned about $7 to $12 a week. The fire had begun in the northeast corner of the 8th floor. They never learned the cause of the fire, but no one suspected arson.

Six of the victim’s bodies had been so badly charred that relatives were not able to recognize them. They had remained unidentified until 2011, when through persistent research their names and stories were finally discovered. A grave marker has been placed in their memory.

The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition commemorated the centennial of the fire on March 25, 2011. The ceremony was preceded by a march through Greenwich Village by thousands of people, some carrying shirtwaists on poles, or wearing sashes commemorating the names of those who died in the fire.

A documentary has been made by HBO called Triangle: Remembering the Fire. The site of the fire has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Advertisements