This past Thursday was the 99th Anniversary of the horrific Triangle ShirtWaist Factory Fire. In that fire 146 mostly Immigrant women died a horrific death becuase they were either locked into the 9th Floor sweatshop, died from jumping, died on a faulty fire escape and died due to greed and inhumanity.
But from those horrible ashes rose many positive things. First and foremost it was a catalyst for the labor movement and was a foundation for the great organizer Clara Lemlich to reach out and call for 20,000 needle trade workers to go on strike. It was the cause of great reform in the fire code and a better understanding of builiding in a city. And it was a catalyst to eventually push through workers compensation (ironic it was called workmans compensation, yet the most horrific industrial disaster in New York until 9/11 killed mostly women (and teenage women at that!)
And finally, in honor of this event and all it has meant for New York and the World, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Memorial was established. As a Board of Director of this entity, I am please to let you know the past anniversary we have raised and given out over $218,000 in scholarships to children of severely injured workers and workers killed on the job. I am also looking forward to letting you know here our final numbers raised and our committments for 2010! Also handed out at the dinner was the Clara Lemlich Awards in honor of Clara Lemlich who's efforts in the early 1900's led to the first major workers strike resulting in better wages and working conditions for members of the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union)
Sorrow and Tragedy cannot be avoided, but great things, even when they are small can come from such times!
Brian Mittman with Jane Smith – friend and colleague of Clara Lemlich