Mourning the Triangle Fire Victims
Originally published in the Forverts, March 29, 1911
Oceans of tears were spilled yesterday at the funerals of the victims of Saturday’s fire. Following each hearse were not only the closest relatives and friends of the dead but also hundreds of people that didn’t know them. And all of them were sobbing: those unacquainted with them just as much as those who were close to them. Everyone felt the pain of the luckless. Everyone grieved the horrific, untimely deaths of the innocent victims who were immolated at the sacrificial altar of capitalism.
Yesterday at around four in the afternoon the funeral of Yetta Goldstein, the 20-year-old girl about whose tragic death we wrote in yesterday’s Forverts, was held. The unfortunate one burned to cinder was not identified for two days. On the third day she was identified by a button on her sleeve. She had borrowed the button from her landlord.
The funeral began at 282 Madison St. where the girl lived. The street was packed with thousands of people who came to shed tears for the victim of Saturday’s tragedy. A deep sorrow embraced all who were there. The atmosphere was filled with heartrending sighs and wailing cries. The fire-escapes were loaded with people, all of them shedding fervid tears. Hundreds of young children, girls and boys, accompanied the funeral procession, also sobbing at the harrowing worker calamity.
Yesterday’s funeral brought to mind the funeral processions of the martyrs of the Russian pogroms that were held here in 1905.
The unfathomable grief on Madison Street spread to every street the funeral passed through.
On the funeral-wagon, next to the driver, an old Jew, the beadle, sat holding a white placard that stated that this was the funeral of Yetta Goldsein. Yetta’s two brothers, weavers from Patterson, were directly behind the black wagon. They dragged themselves forward on shaky legs needing support from others to keep them from falling. Their voices were already hoarse from wailing and they were already drained of tears. They could only cry out in strained anguished tones that curdled the blood. A large mass of people trailed behind them, a multitude of mourners grieving their corpse. In the front, leading the multitude, were members of the Ladies Waist Makers Union. One of them carried a black flag with a large picture of the beautiful, young, cheerful Yetta Goldstein pinned to it, she presently laying, a hunk of coal in her coffin.
When the funeral procession passed the Forverts offices, a trembling yowl cut through the air. One of the deceased’s brothers, Sam, the older one, tore at the sky with his fists as if demanding justice from above for this horrendous disaster. His hoarse voice screeched, “Behold this victim of capitalism!” Other voices immediately joined his. “Is this what we work for, is this the price we pay for our hard labor; is it not enough that we give the capitalists our sweat and blood, must we also give them our lives! A thousand curses on such a system.
But who can remember all the outbursts wrested from the traumatized hearts of that large multitude as the funeral procession went by the Forward office!
Yetta Goldstein was buried at Workmen’s Circle where her brother is a member.
A heart made of stone would have crumbled witnessing the funeral of Mrs. Julia Rosen of 78 Clinton Street. The woman was a widow and worked along with her eldest son Isaac in the Triangle factory in order to sustain her other three children, the little orphans. Together they fought for their lives and together they lost their lives in the fire. Her body was identified; her son’s has not as yet been identified.
The entire block on Clinton Street was black with people and when the casket housing the deceased was brought out everyone burst into tears. Trailing the coffin were the three surviving orphans, their keening yowls breaking everyone’s heart to pieces. A large multitude accompanied the deceased to the bridge.
The funeral of the young Bessie Ehrenstein of 77 Essex Street also initiated much wailing of thousands of people who didn’t know her. Her street was blocked off for more than an hour. When the casket was brought out of the house an elder [old Jew] climbed a stoop and delivered the following eulogy for the deceased.
“Our poor children go to work in firetraps in order to save themselves from shame. When they get home they have to go to sleep in tenements that are also firetraps. They are sentenced to burn—by day and by night.”
About Those Who Perished
Those unfortunates, whose sacrificed kin have not been identified, whose children, sisters and brothers, have also been horrifically immolated, to the point where they are unrecognizable, should bring us pictures of the victims. We will publish their pictures in the Forward, maybe that will help to identify them. They should also report them to the Ladies Waistmakers office at 151 Clinton Street and sign a petition, if they want, that the union bury the unidentified bodies in the Workmen’s Circle Cemetery so that it may be known where those hapless lie, so that at least an aggrieved mother may know where the unidentified body of her darling child is to be found.