The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: How It Was Covered Through The Years by the Forward

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: How It Was Covered Through The Years

When the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire broke out on March 25, 1911, the Forward was on the scene. For days it dominated the news — 146 workers, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant women perished in the fire, still known today as one of the worst industrial tragedies in America.

The coverage was abundant in the aftermath, but it didn’t let it up through the years. Forward archivist Chana Pollack uncovered and translated stories written 20-plus years later, memorializing the tragedy and the victims. Even years later, the writers still appeared to be in awe that such a disaster could strike.

Forverts 3/25/34Front page

TODAY IS 23 YEARS SINCE 148 WORKING GIRLS AND MEN WERE BURNED IN FIRE; FIRE TRAPS ARE STILL AROUND!

ON MARCH 25, 1911 THE HORRIBLE ‘TRIANGLE FIRE’ OCCURRED. THIS YEAR 48 POOR FOLKS LOST THEIR LIVES IN FIRE TRAPS.

Today it’s exactly 23 years since the horrible fire in the ‘Triangle Factory’ where 148 workers, mostly girls, lost their lives, unable to escape the fire-trap.

Decades have since passed, years in which we’ve dutifully written and lamented about closing down the dangerous factories and tenements but the situation hasn’t improved. In the twelve weeks of this new year so far 48 people have been burned to death. Women and children in New York fire-traps have died while landlords still claim ‘nothing can be done.’

It’s even been shown that the city has several hundred of its own fire-traps. There the state must move all residents and so yesterday an order went out for those living in 12 such tenements have to leave.

Meanwhile a movement is forming against this latest horrifying scandal. The tenement at 221 East 66th Street formed a committee against these fire-traps and similarly they’re developing throughout the city.

Forverts 3/25/36Front page

25 YEARS TODAY SINCE TRIANGLE FIRE

Today is the 25th anniversary of the huge fire at the ‘Triangle Waist Company’ in New York when 146 workers were burned to death in a fire-trap.

With regard to that, today, Wednesday, on the Debs Radio Station [WEVD] a memorial meeting will be held with the Secretary of Labor Miss Perkins as keynote speaker.

The special radio program will take place over half an hour from 8:15 till 8:45 and Mrs. Mary Dreiser, Vice President of the Women’s Trade Union League and Elias Reisberg, Vice President of the International will also participate. All three played a critical role in the vast protest movement the rose up after the Triangle tragedy.

(An interesting article by H. Lang about the Triangle fire is on today’s Forverts editorial page.)

Forverts 3/26/56Front page

TRIANGLE FIRE AWAKENED AMERICA’S WORKERS TO FIGHT SAYS DAVID DUBINSKY

YESTERDAY WAS 45 YEARS SINCE THE FIRE BROKE OUT AND 147 GIRLS WERE KILLED. PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL DESCRIBES TRAGIC DETAILS OF THE FIRE. SPEAKS TODAY AT THE INSTALLATION MEETING OF LOCAL 89. MRS. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT GIVES IMPORTANT SPPECH. INTERNATIONAL WILL BUILD A COLISEUM IN HAIFA IN ANTONINI’S NAME.

By Y. Fogel

The birth and development of the needle trade unions must simultaneously be written alongside the tragic ‘Triangle’ fire that broke out 45 years ago, on March 25, 1911 in which 147 young women were killed. That fact was pointed out by David Dubinsky, President of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union at an installation gathering of the Italian dressmakers local 89.

Dubinsky who swore in the administration of manager Luigi Antonini pointed out that the tragic Triangle fire that took place on the East Side had, at the time, rocked this country’s consciousness. Young women died leaping out the windows because doors of the Triangle factory were locked. As a result of that tragic event organizations rose up such as the Women’s Trade Union League, laws in favor of workers were enacted and sweat shop conditions were changed and generally the attitude towards workers in the needle trades completely shifted.

At the installation meeting of Local 89 at which Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt also spoke, a great deal of time was devoted to describing the tragic Triangle fire whose money pinching owners were responsible for the fact that 147 young women, Jewish and Italian, were killed so prematurely, smothered in fiery flames that torched their young bodies.

The installation meeting took place Saturday in the Rivoli Theatre. All attendees were able to also view the well known Broadway movie operetta ‘Oklahoma.’

At the same time Luigi Antonini who is also the chairman of the Italian Labor Council received a medal from Italian President Gronki.

It was also announced that the Local raised over 30 thousand dollars for the Infantile Paralysis Fund.

Some of the money was given to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt who was introduced as the ‘World’s First Lady.’ As is known, her husband, the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself also a victim of polio.

In a very tender manner, his widow gave thanks for the donation and thus showed that ‘you sanctify the memory of my husband in a way that would have made him very happy, had he lived to see it.’

The meeting Chair was Julius Hochman. The General Manager of the New York Dress Joint Board. He praised Luigi Antonini in a very moving way citing he was a visionary with prophetic talents.

DUBINSKY DESCRIBES TRIANGLE FIRE

Dubinsky movingly described the tragic chapter written by the Triangle fire in the history of the American labor movement generally and in the needle trade unions specifically.

His voice emotional, he described steps the unions made since the fire and literally rocked the nation’s consciousness.

Separately he presented moments of cooperation between Jewish and Italian workers in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

He strongly praised Manager Antonini and Local 89, established 37 years ago.

Dubinsky correctly pointed out that decades ago reactionaries and conservative workers looked accusingly and with hatred on immigrant workers. They believed immigrants sought to undermine achievements of earlier organized workers. But the International proved to be an example for the world how peacefully Jewish and Italian workers can create harmony.

Later everyone witnessed the Jews and Italians as good union material. And later yet, everyone was in agreement when the Zigmons and Shlesingers and Antoninis and Gioventis and Trescos were masterful labor leaders.

Dubinsky also praised Antonini for having courage to be an Italian patriot who criticized Italy when it was caught up in Mussolini’s fascism.

Dubinsky also expressed pride that the sports coliseum being built in Haifa, Israel will bear Antonini’s name. That will symbolize, Dubinsky stated, the fraternal bonds between Italian and Jewish workers in their International.

Last to speak was Antonini who told how he himself was a witness at the Triangle fire 45 years ago. Antonini then lived on Sullivan Street not far from the Triangle firm.

After those young lives were cut off in their prime, Antonini said, we began dreaming and struggling to extinguish all the ill means responsible for the fires in other exploitative firms.

Forverts 11/29/56 Page 8

MATERIAL ABOUT THE TRIANGLE FIRE SOUGHT

Leon Stein, editor of ‘Justice’ the bi-weekly newspaper of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and Will Chasin, journalist, are currently writing a book about the Triangle fire in New York in 1911 in which 146 garment workers died.

The authors are asking those who escaped the fire or relatives of the deceased dressmakers or anyone having material connected to the Triangle fire to get in touch with Leo Stein at 1710 Broadway, NY. Material sent in will be carefully handled and sent back in good condition. The authors can be reached by telephoning Mr. Stein at Colombus5-7000.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Through The Years

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