1911 Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire Summary - History, Discussion and Analysis
The Fire at the Triangle Shirtwast Company, located in New York City, occurred in 1911. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company was the largest blouse making factory in this time. The company employed mostly women. They worked these women under terrible conditions. The employees worked long hours for low pay. They worked in cramped rooms and with little of no air circulation. The factory locked its doors to keep the women in the building. Exits were also blocked.
On March 25, 1911, the factory building caught on fire. The workers (mostly women) could not get out of the burning building. Many jumped to their deaths to avoid being burnt to death. Firement could not get to he windows as their ladders and fire hoses were not long enough to reach the windows of the building. (The fires broke out on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors, ladders and fire hoses would not reach past the 6th floor). At the time of the fire, about 500 were employed. Many died trying to escape. Those who could get to the fire escape, died when the fire escape collapsed. Elevators could not hold more than 15 people at a time and quickly became unavailable as the fire spread to the elevator shaft. As a result, 146 persons died in the fire.
The public were outraged because the deaths were preventable. The company neglected all safety issues. As a result of this tragedy, laws were enacted to protect workers that included fire, building and safety codes in all public buildings. For example, no exits are to be blocked in any public buildings. The working conditions in sweatshop factories were brought to the attention of the public which led to movements to improve the working conditions in factories. In addition, it gave the labor movements as well as the women's movement of the day more support from the public.