Volume 80, Number 42 | March 17 - 23, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo courtesy of The New York Public Library

A century later, factory fire not forgotten
Citywide events pay tribute to Triangle’s legacy

COMPILED BY SCOTT STIFFLER

It’s been nearly a century since fire engulfed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on March 25, 1911 — claiming the lives of 146 people (mostly young immigrant workers) who either perished in the blaze or dropped to their death when the fire escape collapsed. Careless disregard for safety procedures, and the anti-union activities of the factory owners, made this event a rallying cry for workplace safety and social justice.

Remember the Triangle Fire is a volunteer-run coalition of artists, activists and academics all committed to supporting a citywide commemoration of the Triangle Factory fire. For a full list of events (and info on how to get involved with the group), visit rememberthetrianglefire.org.

The activities listed below (some affiliated with “Remember” and some not) pay tribute to the workers who lost their lives, recall the era they lived in, and ensure that the lessons learned from this industrial age tragedy are applied to our modern era.
 
TRIBUTE: MUSEUM AT ELDRIDGE STREET
On Sun., March 27, at 1:46 pm, The Museum at Eldridge Street’s commemorative event begins at 23-29 Washington Place in the Village. After songs in Yiddish (sung by Cantor Jeff Warschauer), the group — dressed in period clothing and wearing a placard identifying the name of the victim they are portraying — will march silently to the Eldridge Street Synagogue (12 Eldridge St. btw. Canal and Division Sts.). Modeled on early 20th century Yiddish funeral corteges, there will be seven stops along the way (at the houses of some of the victims). At 3pm, the Commemorative Program begins. Musicians Deborah Strauss (violin), Jeff Warschauer (vocals & guitar) and Joey Weisenberg (drums) have set to music the works of the Sweatshop Poets — who wrote about the deplorable working conditions of the immigrant masses. The concert ends with the singing of “El Maley Rahomim” — the Hebrew prayer traditionally recited at the gravesite. Each of the 146 actors will then announce the name of the Triangle victim they are representing and light a memorial candle.

Tickets are $20 adults and $15 for seniors and students. For reservations, call 212-219-0302. Visit eldridgestreet.org. This event is co-sponsored by the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition and the National Yiddish Book Center.

TOURS
Joyce Gold History Tours offers two events providing different Village-based perspectives on the fire. “Notorious Women of Washington Square” chronicles the lives of remarkable women (from factory workers to aristocrats) who left their imprints on this neighborhood and beyond. Sat., March 19 at 1pm and Wed., March 23 at 11am. Also, on Sun., March 20 at 1pm, “Greenwich Village and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Centennial” covers all the essentials of the Village: its history, culture, architecture, personalities — and “The Fire That Changed America.” Tour length: two hours. Fee: $15 ($12 for ages 62+). No reservations are needed. All tours begin at the Washington Square Arch (Fifth Ave. south of 8th St.). For info, visit JoyceGoldHistoryTours.com.

THE WAISTMAKERS’ OPERA
Composed by Michael Hickey with libretto and direction by Ryan Gilliam, this original rock opera is performed by a cast of 16 teen girls (accompanied by a live band). It chronicles November 1909’s “Uprising of the 20,000.” The first major strike led by women in the U.S., the owners of the Triangle Company were among those who resisted the demands of striking workers. This performance is presented by Downtown Art — which works with teens, ages 12-19, to create original theater, music and performance events. March 20, 26 & 27 at 2:30pm. Performances begin outdoors at the site of the former Triangle factory (corner of Washington & Greene Sts.) and ends indoors at Millennium Film Workshop (66 E. 4th St.). For tickets ($15, $10 for students/seniors), call 212-479-0885 or visit downtownart.org. For info, visit

DOCUMENTARY
The HBO documentary “Triangle: Remembering the Fire” tells the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and how the widespread reforms following the tragedy ushered in the birth of the modern labor movement. Focusing on the personal stories of victims, survivors, employees and management, the interviewees include Susan Harris (granddaughter of Triangle co-owner Max Blanck), Adelphi University labor historian Leigh Benin and Katharine Weber — author of the novel “Triangle” and granddaughter to a Triangle worker. The film’s HBO premiere is on March 21 at 9pm; then, on March 25 at 6:30pm, March 27 at 1pm, March 31 at 11:30am, April 2 at 3:45pm and April 5 at 11:45pm (45 minutes in length).
 
100 YEARS AFTER: THE TRIANGLE FIRE REMEMBERED AND RETHOUGHT
Following the Triangle fire, a memorial meeting was held in The Great Hall of The Cooper Union — where only two years earlier, hundreds of garment workers rallied against sweatshop conditions. In tribute, this event recalls that memorial meeting through performances from the New York Labor Chorus and NYC youth poets. Also included: an art exhibition and storytelling. Free. Fri., March 25, 7-9pm, at The Great Hall, The Cooper Union (7 E. 7th St. btw. 3rd and 4th Aves., 2nd floor). For info, 212-353-4195 or cooper.edu.

PANEL: TODAY’S SWEATSHOPS
“Not One More Fire! Finding Solutions to Today’s Sweatshops” is a panel discussion about initiatives by industry, government and workers to humanize the global garment industry and promote local industry. Panelists include Kalpona Akter (executive director, Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity); Mitch Cahn (president, Unionwear); and Bjorn Claeson (director, SweatFree Communities, International Labor Rights Forum).  FIT students will present a runway fashion show of garments that express their feelings about various workplace issues. Free. 5:30pm at FIT (Seventh Ave. at 27th St., in the John E. Reeves Great Hall. Co-sponsored by the International Labor Rights Forum, the Garment Industry Development Corporation and Workers United — an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union). For more info, visit fitnyc.edu.

LECTURE: HAND-SEWING IN THE 1850s
Sixty years before the Triangle fire (before sewing machines and factories revolutionized clothing production),   most garments were made entirely by hand. Learn about forgotten hand-sewing methods used at home and in dressmakers’ workshops during the mid-19th century in this “hands-on” presentation. At the Merchant’s House Museum (29 E. Fourth St. btw. Lafayette & Bowery). $15 ($10 for students & seniors; free for MHM Members). For reservations, call 212-777-1089 or visit merchantshouse.org/events.

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