Triangle Fire: Remembrance of Things Past—and Present

Richard Greenwald

100 years later, we remember...

Last week there were, as there should have been, many events in New York City and beyond remembering the Triangle Fire. After all, March 25 was the 100th anniversary of that tragedy, in which 146 mostly young female factory workers perished.

As someone who has written a book about the fire and its influence, I attended as many events as I could. I was struck by how this long-ago tragedy has somehow struck a cord for so many people. As I moved from event to event, I kept thinking that maybe, just maybe, this meant something. Maybe it (the collective remembering) would move beyond mourning to spur a renewed attention to the issues the Triangle Fire itself raised 100 years ago.

The fire was the line in the sand where many Americans said enough: we go no further. It was the moment that a strong collective working class demanded its citizenship rights. And it was the moment that many looked to the state to stand up for the weak against the strong. But as I get some distance on last week’s events, I am worried that we are loosing our moral compass, if we have not already lost it by now.

Where is our line in the sand? Will we continue to see the erosion of the rights of workers? Will an organized anti-union movement, combined with sitting governors who seem to have taken a page out of history, take what little workers have left from all the gains they made since 1911? Will we be forced to relive the past?

I hope not. But we are living in a time where organized labor is weak, fractured and leaderless. It is much like the early 1900s. Will we see a spark from the unorganized that will galvanize and renew the union movement?

If we are to see a rebirth of labor, it is surely going to come from the new immigrant communities. Will we be ready to recognize the moment and provide support for such a labor rebirth? I am waiting.

Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Richard Greenwald is a labor historian and social critic. . His essays have appeared in In These Times, The Progressive, The Wall Street Journal among others. He is currently writing a book on the rise of freelancing and is co-editing a book on the future of work for The New Press, which features essays from the county’s leading labor scholars and public intellectuals.
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.