My Timeline

My part of the Digital Timeline revolves around labor issues in Greenwich Village from the last decade of the 1800s until the Triangle fire of 1911. Additionally, it covers commemoration of the fire, happening in the Village in the last half of the 20th century.

The Triangle Fire was a turning point in American history because of the context and time in which it happens. Immigrants, mostly female Italians and Jews, had been suppressed by the factory system since its foundations in the early part of the 20th century with the booming of the garment industry. Women were hired before men mainly because they were cheaper labor and they were less likely to unionize. However, this made them targets of abuse in which they were forced to work in unsafe and unsanitary conditions for more then ten hours a day, six days a week. Unlike working class men, women didn't have a voice in government or in unions. Unions ignored women because they viewed as weak, unaggressive and unconcerned with labor issues. They were considered as transient members of the labor field, since they often left factory jobs after marriage. For unions this translated into a lack of dedication.

The Triangle fire legacy started a year earlier then the tragedy, because it begins with women making demands of factory owners during the Uprising of the 20,000. This was the first large scale women's strike in history and included Triangle Factory employees. While only some demands of the workers were met, it proved that women could commit to striking and that they were a force to be reckoned with on the picket lines. The Triangle fire calls attention to the fact that many of the demands these women made for safer working conditions were imperative to their survival. 146 people die, because these demands were not met; doors were left locked, caging in workers and a faulty fire escape causes multiple deaths at the Triangle.

The shock of the tragedy continues the conversation of fair labor practices well into the New Deal era and even today as legislators continue to try to make the workplace a safe environment. The tragedy of the Triangle Fire is so important because society has not reached a point where workers are treated fairly, and thus commemoration and commitment to public memory of this tragedy is imperative.

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