Friday, March 25, 2011
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
The University of Illinois at Chicago
800 S. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60607-7017
March 25, 2011 is the Centennial of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire which took the lives of 146 workers,mostly young immigrant women, and galvanized a movement for social justice.
In concert with organizations and individuals across the country, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum asks you to remember this day and to become involved with the contemporary struggle for immigrant rights and fair labor practices.
We will join with groups from around the country and ring a bell in the courtyard of the Hull-House Museum at 3:45 PM (4:45 EST) the exact time the first alarm was sounded.
100 YEARS AGO, New York City experienced one of its most devastating workplace tragedies. In the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, 146 immigrant girls, mostly Jewish and Italian, died trying to escape flames that roared through the upper floors of a garment factory near Washington Square. Trapped behind locked doors, many never had a chance to escape. Others jumped out the windows, some hand-in-hand, their hair and clothes aflame.
The Triangle Fire became an unparalleled catalyst for social reform. Public outrage over the event galvanized the progressive movement, women’s suffrage, and instigated many of the reforms of The New Deal. There was a trial but the owners, long known for their anti-union activities, got off. The fire became a rallying cry for the international labor movement.
The fire also played a critical role in launching Frances Perkins and pioneer of the minimum wage and unemployment insurance, on her remarkable political career. Perkins was a friend and colleague with Jane Addams, and who in 1911 was the executive secretary of the Consumers’ League of New York City. Perkins witnessed the charred bodies of young girls falling from the Asch building, and vowed to fight for change. A year later, she announced that she would take the role of executive secretary of the Committee on Safety. From there she moved swiftly through the ranks of New York state government, and in 1933, when President Roosevelt appointed her Labor Secretary, she became the first female cabinet member. Headlines read: “A Factory Fire Made Her U.S. Secretary of Labor.”