Yesterday I had the honor of attending the commemoration of the 108th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. On March 25, 1911, 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, perished in a disastrous shirtwaist factory fire on Greene Street in lower Manhattan. Trapped by doors that had been locked to prevent theft and pushed by the flames, many young men and women jumped to their deaths. The fire brought into sharp focus the need for laws and regulations guaranteeing safety in factories and work places, and resulted in many changes for the better. The job is not over, however, and the need for continued vigilance is one of the themes of these yearly commemorations.
The ceremony was moving. The New York City Fire Department raised their ladder to the sixth floor of the building, symbolically illustrating the horror of that afternoon when, with the fire on the eight floor, their ladders could not reach that high. Chalk marks on the sidewalk marked the places where the young men and women had fallen. Participants carried shirtwaist blouses bearing the name of one of the deceased. This year I had the privilege of carrying one bearing the name of Kalman Donic, 24, one of the 17 young men who died. Several years ago I carried a shirtwaist honoring Rose Manofsky, a 22 year old young woman from Russia who died in Bellvue Hospital.
Recognizing the important link between the suffrage and labor movements, The Long Island Woman Suffrage Association is a Participating member of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition and supports them in their effort to build a permanent art memorial to the victims and legacy of the fire. For more information, check out their website at http://rememberthetrianglefire.org.