Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
Near closing time on Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, in New York City a fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. One of the worst tragedies in American history it was know as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. It was a disaster that took the lives of 146 young immigrant workers. A fire that broke out in a cramped sweatshop that trapped many inside and killed 146 people. This tragedy pointed out the negatives of sweatshop conditions of the industrialization era. It emphasized the worst part of its times the low wages, long hours, and unsanitary working conditions were what symbolized what sweatshops were all about. These conditions were appalling, and no person should ever be made to work in these conditions. Before this tragedy occurred the suffering of the workers was very evident. Take for instance this first hand account by Sadie Frowne. "My name is Sadie Frowne. I work in Allen Street (Manhattan) in what they call a sweatshop. I am new at the work and the foreman scolds me a great deal. I get up at half-past five o'clock every morning and make myself a cup of coffee on the oil stove. I eat a bit of bread and perhaps some fruit and then go to work. Often I get there soon after six o'clock so as to be in good time, though the factory does not open till seven. At seven o'clock we all sit down to our machines and the boss brings to each one the pile of work that he or she is to finish during the daywhat they call in English their "stint." This pile is put down beside the machine and as soon as a garment is done it is laid on the other side of the machine. Sometimes the work is not all finished by six o'clock, and then the one who is behind must work overtime. The machines go like mad all day because the faster you work the more money you get. Sometimes in my haste I get my finger caught and the needle goes right
through it. It goes so quick, though, that it does not hurt much. I bind the finger up with a piece of cotton and go on working. We all have accidents like that. All the time we are working the boss walks around examining the finished garments and making us do them over again if they are not just right. So we have to be careful as well as swift. But I am getting so good at the work that within a year I will be making $7 a week, and then I can save at least $4.50 a week. I have over $200 saved now. The machines are all run by foot power, and at the end of the day one feels so weak that there is a great temptation to lie right down and sleep." Or for instance a statement taken by Wirt Silkes a women who worked in a sweatshop and her opinion on sweatshop conditions, "There are some roomy and cheerful shops in the city. But there are scores, and hundreds, that are not roomy and cheerful." As well as this exert from My First Job by Rose Cohen, "Seven o'clock came around and everyone worked on. I wanted to rise as father had told me to do and go home. But I had not the courage to stand up alone. I kept putting off going from minute to minute. My neck felt stiff and my back ached. I wished there were a back to my chair so that I could rest against it a little. When the people began to go home it seemed to me that it had been night a long time." Clara Lemlich wrote in Life in the Shop, her first hand experience. "First let me tell you something about the way we work and what we are paid. There are two kinds of work-regular, that is salary work, and piece work. The regular work pays about $6 a week and the girls have to be at their machines at 7 o'clock in the morning and they stay at them until 8 o'clock at night, with just one-half hour for lunch in that time.
The shops, well, there is just one row of machines that the daylight ever gets to that is the front row, nearest the window. The girls at all the other rows of machines back in the shops have to work by gaslight, by day as well as by night. Oh,...
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