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Thursday, December 20, 2012

1911 - Triangle Waist Company Fire, New York City

 “...I learned a new sound--a more horrible sound than description can picture. It was the thud of a speeding, living body on a stone sidewalk.

Thud-dead, thud-dead, thud-dead, thud-dead. Sixty-two thud-deads. I call them that, because the sound and the thought of death came to me each time, at the same instant. There was plenty of chance to watch them as they came down. The height was eighty feet.The first ten thud-deads shocked me. I looked up-saw that there were scores of girls at the windows. The flames from the floor below were beating in their faces. Somehow I knew that they, too, must come down, and something within me-something that I didn't know was there-steeled me...

I looked upon the heap of dead bodies and I remembered these girls were the shirtwaist makers. I remembered their great strike of last year in which these same girls had demanded more sanitary conditions and more safety precautions in the shops. These dead bodies were the answer.

Article written by eye-witness - William Shepherd. Published in Milwaukee Journal, Wisconsin, March 27, 1911.

In November of 1909, 20,000 women garment industry workers went on strike to protest poor working conditions. These women worked long hours in horrible conditions. In some cases, their employers even locked the emergency exits to keep out the labor unions. In March 25, 1911, their nightmare came true. Workers, mostly in their teens, were trapped inside the burning building in which they were employed, the Triangle Waist Company in New York City. With emergency doors locked from the outside and a failing elevator, they had two choices: burn in the fire or jump out the window. Unfortunately, they were on the 8th floor. 141 people perished that day.

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