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Mother’s Day and the Triangle Factory

March 25, 2011

Today we are celebrating Mother’s day in Slovenia to honor mothers and motherhood. Mother’s day is, in spring months, celebrated in various countries differently. However, another event linked to women’s movement is remembered in America today.

March 25, 1911 was Saturday. At the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the largest maker of high-collar blouses, the workers, mainly women sowing garments, were finishing their daily shifts. Then the fire emerged. In a half hour it consumed lofts on three floors of the brick building in Lower Manhattan, leaving behind 146 bodies. 123 of them were young women, mainly Jewish and Italian emigrants aged sixteen to twenty-three.

It is known as The Triangle factory fire. A tragedy of epic proportion, that cut not only in the hearts of Jewish and Italian community in New York, but also shaken Americans and stipulated introduction of safety at work standards. The company had had a bad record. Two years before the workers staged a 13-week industry-wide strike with demands for better conditions and union representation, with no success.

 The stories of women, toiling in overcrowded sweatshops on building’s top floors, of the exit doors being blocked and of at least 50 workers that concluded the better option than being trapped inside was to jump, shocked America.

When the last six victims were laid to rest in the cemetery between Brooklyn and Queens, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers turned out for a symbolic procession sponsored by labor unions and women organizations. Media played an important part in awareness raising campaign that resulted in introducing government investigations and safety at work standards.

Inspiration for the International Women’s Day is often mistakenly linked to the Triangle factory fire, however, the proposal to celebrate it came to light a year before, in 1910.

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From → Hic Salta

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