Last week I paid a visit to the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. Hundreds of people gathered to commemorate the anniversary of this tragedy in which 146 people, mostly young immigrant women who toiled in sweatshop conditions, lost their lives.
Along with the relatives of those who had died in the fire, the event brought together union workers representing many different sectors. I saw firemen, retail workers, electric workers, restaurant workers, construction workers, and laundry workers.
A dozen or so people in the crowd carried long cardboard poles on top of which fluttered shirtwaist-style blouses. A sash was slung over each blouse and pinned into position. On the front of each sash was written the name of someone who perished in the fire that day and on the back was listed the victim’s age. Most of the ages I saw listed were in the range of 17 to 22 years old, but some were as young as 14.