The 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is being marked this month. An article in the The Jewish Daily Forward included this video of a gripping oratorio by Elizabeth Swados commemorating the tragedy, a riveting and emblematic event in early 20th-century American life.
“I want them to feel the humanity of the women who were involved and to experience the injustice of that kind of loss of life, and to understand that you really shouldn’t turn your head away from these kinds of slave labors of any nationality that are going on,” Swados said. “I hope they get some history, some beauty, some sadness. I hope they wake up. Aren’t we in a kind of communal slumber, all of us, of what’s going on?”
One hundred forty-six garment workers were killed in a fire that lasted only about half an hour. They were prevented from escaping the building because managers had locked the doors and stairwells. Almost half of them jumped to their deaths. The public horror that ensued led to regulation to improve safety and work conditions in factories.