March 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire where 146 garment workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women and teenage girls, were burned to death on the locked upper floors of a sweatshop in Greenwich Village. These immigrants came to this country in search of a better life. They worked 12 hours a day or more, at least six days a week to support their families. The youngest victim was 16. Six of the burned bodies were only identified this year. This tragedy was a major catalyst for change in labor and safety laws in this country and is an important date in New York, feminist and labor history.
Together with the Museum at Eldridge Street Museum, we are organizing a procession of 146 people, each one representing a sweatshop worker at the turn of the last century who lost her life in the fire. A list of the victims names is available here.
On Sunday, March 27, 2011, at 1.46pm we will walk from the site of the Triangle Fire near NYU to the Eldridge Street Synagogue on the lower east side, the neighborhood where many of these workers lived. The march will represent the walk home the victims of the Triangle Fire were never able to make. Each walker will wear a plaque with the name, age, address and death date of the worker she is commemorating. We will then enter the synagogue around 3pm and stand on the second floor women’s balcony.
The performer and Yiddish translator Caraid O'Brien will talk about the Sweatshop Poets, a group of early twentieth century Yiddish artists who worked by day in the sweatshops of New York City and wrote poetry at night about their lives. Actors will perform some of the poetry in Yiddish and English. The acclaimed klezmer musicians Jeff Warschauer and Deborah Strauss will perform several songs based on the work of the Sweatshop Poets. The program will end as all of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory performers file to the front of the room, light a memorial candle, say their name and age and leave the synagogue as images from the fire are projected on a screen.
Several groups have joined us in taking part in the procession including Todo con Nada, Treehouse Shakers, World Fellowship, The New Yiddish Chorale, Media for Social Profit and The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. We are still looking for a few performers to join the walk. If you are interested send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org