A Procession of ‘Shirtwaists’

By Joy Resmovits

Published March 25, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A few hundred marchers assembled this morning at Union Square in New York City, preparing for a solemn procession to the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, where 146 young immigrants perished in a fire 100 years ago today.

For many years, the Triangle fire was the worst industrial accident in New York City.

The marchers came from many walks of life – unionists, performance artists, teachers, descendants of those who died as well as those whose ancestors survived the fire — and from as far away as Salt Lake City and Chicago.

Most striking were 146 handmade shirtwaists or blouses that were attached to bamboo poles and held high in the air, dancing in the wind on a cold but sunny Friday.

As the marchers gathered, one person blew a shofar and others sang Italian peasant songs, tributes to the mostly Jewish and Italian workers, some as young as 14, who died when the flames consumed the upper three stories of the 10-story former Asch Building at Washington Place and Green Street, just off Washington Square.

Teacher Kimberly Schiller brought 12 of her eighth-grade students from Finley Middle School in Huntington on Long Island.

Some family members bore witness by carrying signs with photos of their relatives and their names printed on them.

Among the many union signs on display were those tying the Triangle tragedy to the current problems with workplace safety in garment factories in Bangladesh. One banner read: “We support the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, a labor organization fighting sweatshop conditions in those factories today.

Another sign read: “ No Sweatshop Economy.”

The marchers planned to head to Washington Square and join the crowd for the official 100th anniversary commemoration that begins at noon. Bruce Raynor, president of Workers United/SEIU, will emcee the proceedings, joined by Hilda L. Solis, U.S. secretary of Labor; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and actor Danny Glover, a longtime supporter of the labor movement.

For the first time this year, all 146 names of the victims will be read. The last six, who had been unknown for 100 years, were recently identified.

The commemoration in New York City is the largest of dozens of events around the nation that are taking place today, or have taken placed during the month, to pay tribute to those who died and to try to galvanize support for workers’ struggles today.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.