So it is that we remind you that it’s been 99 years since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which claimed the lives of 146 young immigrant workers, most of them women, on this day in 1911 in New York’s Greenwich Village.
They didn’t have to die. The owners of the factory had locked the only doors by which workers on the ninth floor could escape to keep them at their work and prevent them from sneaking off for unauthorized breaks (and, in the ultimate irony, to keep out union organizers, too).
Those 146 victims were involuntary martyrs to the cause of worker safety and rights, and, as such, should be remembered and honored by all of us who today benefit from reforms their tragic deaths helped to inspire.
For those unfamiliar with the events of that day, we recommend this commemorative and educational web site, operated by Cornell University, and David von Drehle’s book, Triangle: The Fire That Changed America.