Triangle Fire: American Experience

Tue, 02/25/2014 - 8:00pm

Pictured: Striking shirtwaist makers selling copies of The Call, the New York socialist newspaper

Credit: Courtesy of International Ladies Garment Workers Union Archives, Kheel Center, Cornell University

More than 100 years ago, 146 workers died in the fire that sparked sweeping labor reform in New York City.

On March 25th, 1911, a deadly fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. The blaze ripped through the congested loft as petrified workers -- mostly young immigrant women -- desperately tried to make their way downstairs.  One door was blocked by fire and the other had been locked by the factory owners to prevent theft.  Some workers managed to cram onto the elevator while others ran down an inadequate fire escape which soon pulled away from the masonry and sent them to their deaths. Hundreds of horrified onlookers arrived just in time to see young men and women jumping from the windows, framed by flames. By the time the fire burned itself out, 146 people were dead.  All but 23 of the dead were women and nearly half were teenagers. Triangle Fire: American Experience, airing Tuesday, February 25 at 8 p.m. WXXI, tells the harrowing story of an event that changed labor laws forever.