A Bridge Between Two Worlds

Editor's Note

By Lillian Swanson

Published March 16, 2011, issue of March 25, 2011.
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On these pages you will find translated into English for the first time the original coverage of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire from the pages of the Yiddish-language Forverts. In these pieces, the emotions run raw and the writing is evocative and as visual as any of the images that accompany the articles. They have an immediacy that takes you back to an earlier time, 100 years ago, when immigrant Jews and Italians were just gaining a foothold on new lives in America. For many of our ancestors, the first stop was the burgeoning garment industry in New York City.

Forverts Editor Abraham Cahan was not exaggerating when he said the entire Lower East Side neighborhood was sitting shiva. In these archival pieces, you will read of the grief of families torn apart as well as the brave and determined actions of those who declared “Enough!” Thankfully, this fire prompted many of the reforms in fire safety and workplace conditions that we enjoy today.

Be warned that some of the passages are more graphic than you would read in newspaper coverage of a tragedy today. They are offered here unvarnished, as a piece of history. Many of the stories are excerpts from much longer pieces, though some run at full length. Complete versions of 25 archival articles are available on this website.

As we mark this centennial, it would not be enough to reach into our archives to tell readers about this milestone. We also wanted to provide a modern perspective with essays and articles on labor and safety issues to offer a status report on where things stand today.

In many ways this section creates yet another bridge between the legendary Forverts and the cutting-edge Forward of today. We tip our hats to our fellow journalists of yesteryear, and hope, always, to continue their sterling tradition.


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