Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Triangle Factory Fire

Museum Shop Manager Katherine Broadway guest-blogs about some of her favorite Shop books.

On March 25, 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, located in the Brown Building at the corner of Washington and Greene Streets (still standing at the edge of NYU’s campus), caught fire when an employee tossed a cigarette into a bin of scrap fabric. Within 15 minutes, 146 garment workers were killed, most of them women. This was the worst workplace disaster in New York until September 11, 2001.

The Tenement Museum’s Piecing It Together Tour introduces visitors to two families tied to the garment industry on the Lower East Side. The Triangle fire affected garment workers on the Lower East Side by galvanizing support among the general public for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). The tragedy eventually led to regulations for worker and fire safety that are still in place today.

The Museum Shop has many books on the Triangle fire. My favorites are Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David Von Drehle and Triangle: A Novel by Katharine Weber. Von Drehle’s Triangle gives not only a detailed account of the fire and its aftermath but also provides a history of the many waves of immigration to New York, which adds perspective and depth to the tragic story. Weber’s novel connects a contemporary woman researching the fire with an aging survivor of the tragedy, linking the past with the present in a way that shows how women’s labor remains a troubled issue, and ways in which it has changed.

We are proud to invite you to listen to David Von Drehle discuss the history of the Triangle Fire on the 98th anniversary of the fire. He will be speaking in the Museum Shop at 6:30 p.m. TONIGHT. Please join us!

Further Reading:

The Triangle Fire,
by Leon Stein
The Triangle Fire, The Protocols of Peace, and Industrial Democracy in Progressive Era New York, by Richard Greenwald
Dreamland, by Kevin Baker

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