“I would be a traitor to those poor burned bodies if I were to come here and talk about good fellowship. We have tried you, citizens! We are trying you now and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers and sisters by way of charity gift. But every time workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable, the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us…..I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilt. I know from experience it is up to working people to save themselves”
At a memorial meeting after the horrific fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City 1911.
The fires start is unknown but the company managers had a policy of locking the doors to the stairwell from the outside to discourage workers talking unscheduled breaks. However when the fire began all the escape exits were locked leaving only a broken elevator.
The International Lady Garment Workers Union had been on strike the year before, two of their demands that weren’t met were for adequate fire escapes and open doors from the factories to the streets. As one survivor put it “but the bosses defeated us and we didn’t get the doors open, so now our friends are dead”
The fire killed 146 people, mostly young garment workers who’s average age was 19