The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker by Theresa Serber Malkiel published in 1910 chronicled the conditions many young women were forced to endure at work. Striking shirtwaist makers were seeking better pay, a shorter 52-hour workweek, four paid holidays, employer-furnished supplies, etc
Approximately one year later on March 21, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City at 4:45 pm. According to http://www.osha.gov/oas/trianglefactoryfire.html, “The building had only one fire escape, which collapsed during the rescue effort. Long tables and bulky machines trapped many of the victims. Panicked workers were crushed as they struggled with doors that were locked by managers to prevent theft, or doors that opened the wrong way. Only a few buckets of water were on hand to douse the flames. Outside, firefighters’ ladders were too short to reach the top floors and ineffective safety nets ripped like paper.” The fire lasted 18 minutes and left 146 workers dead.
The owners of the company were indicted on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter. Fortunately new workplace safety standards were put into law in the State of New York, setting an example for the rest of the country.~Emma