On This Day: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (March 25, 1911)
Despite repeated attempts by workers and community leaders, New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory employed girls as young as 14 years of age making shirts for sweatshop wages in an overcrowded factory. When fire broke out on March 25, 1911, employees on the tenth floor were alerted by phone and escaped by climbing onto the roof and down a fire escape.
For the girls working on the eighth and ninth floors though, there was no warning – and no way out. The doors had been locked to prevent them from leaving before the end of their shift. Trapped in an inferno, the young women broke windows and leapt to their death rather than suffer the flames. 146 of the 500 workers died that day. The incident caused an uproar throughout the country and provoked the passage of safety legislation and better conditions for workers, and is seen as one of the most significant events in the history of labour relations in the United States.