HBO: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
Set your DVR's tonight to watch the new HBO documentary, Triangle: Remembering the Fire.
It's been 100 years since the March 25, 1911 infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire on the lower East Side of New York which killed 146 garment workers, most of them young, female Jewish and Italian immigrants. Many were burned alive on the upper floors of the ten story building, others jumped to their death. So many of these deaths were unnecessary -- caused by unsafe working conditions. The stairways were narrow, doors were blocked, the fire escapes were faulty and the sprinklers were inadequate. [More...]
It took only 18 minutes for the building to burn. The Triangle Fire was the worst workplace disaster until 9/11.
The country was outraged. Garment union membership soared, and New York legislators promised reform.
Some of the fire victims were never identified because they were burned beyond recognition. The film's producer, Michael Hirsch, also a amateur genealogist and a historian, has for the first time identified them.
The day the six unidentified victims were buried was the culmination of the city’s outpouring of grief; hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers turned out in a driving rain for a symbolic funeral procession sponsored by labor unions and other organizations, while hundreds of thousands more watched from the sidewalks.
A century later, names and even circumstances have finally been attached to those “unknowns.”
The documentary emphasizes the victims. As Laura at Daily Kos writes,
It vividly, forcefully puts the humanity of the Triangle workers in front of us. Much of it is told by descendants of the fire's victims and survivors, and augmented by photos of the victims. It takes hold of you, all their beautiful serious faces—teenagers working 60 or 70 hour weeks, recent immigrants struggling to get ahead. And after the fire, their families were left struggling to identify them from the smallest remnants, seemingly inconsequential possessions that survived.
The care this documentary shows for the workers of the Triangle company is exquisite, so much so that finally the list of the fire's victims is complete.
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