On March 25, 1911, a fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory killed 146 workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women. Fire escapes fell apart, exit doors were locked, and fire hoses had no water. Horrified New Yorkers watched as victims jumped to their death from the factory’s 9th floor sweat shop. Tragically, Triangle workers had voted to unionize two years earlier, but the owners locked them all out. Galvanized by the tragedy, Al Smith and Frances Perkins led an investigation which examined conditions at city sweatshops, and created health and safety codes, restricted child labor and shortened the work week for women (to 54 hours). For more, read Triangle by David Van Drehle and Frances Perkins by Kirsten Downey.
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