A Permanent Memorial to the Victims and Legacy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire is Dedicated in Greenwich Village
NEW YORK, October 11, 2023—Nearly 113 years after the tragedy, the long-awaited public memorial to the victims and legacy of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire will today be dedicated at the site of the historic fire in New York City. The Triangle Fire Memorial will be a permanent element on the very building that housed the Triangle Factory, at the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place in Greenwich Village.
This fire took the lives of 146 mostly young, immigrant women workers in 1911, and outrage over the incident was the impetus for changes in labor and fire safety laws that continue to protect us today. The Triangle Fire Memorial tells the story of the fire in the languages spoken by the victims: English, Yiddish and Italian, and is one of the only memorials in the United States dedicated to workers.
“I’m grateful to the Triangle Fire Coalition for bringing us together today to honor the important legacy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire,” said Acting United States Secretary of Labor Julie A. Su. “Over a century later, the impact of the Triangle fire still reverberates – not only due to the measure of its tragedy, but also because of its powerful role in galvanizing the American labor movement, and inspiring workers to stand up and demand the right to have their voices heard. As we honor all those who lost their lives on that day, we here at the Labor Department and across the country also recommit ourselves to the never-ending fight for workers’ rights.”
"As we continue to reflect on the legacy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, this new memorial helps us do more than remember the victims – it allows us to pay tribute to their enduring spirit," said Governor Kathy Hochul. "More than a century ago, the tragic loss of 146 women and men during the Triangle Fire served as a wake-up call for the entire nation and a catalyst for the modern labor movement – one that ultimately led to stronger worker safety measures, better working conditions, and historic protections for women and children in the workplace. My administration is committed to upholding this remarkable legacy, and as long as I am Governor, I will continue to work alongside our partners in government, business, and labor to ensure that all New Yorkers can make a living safely, fairly, and with dignity."
The Memorial will be visible to the public for the first time this morning. Visitors will be presented with a textured, stainless steel “ribbon” twelve feet above the sidewalk, on the building's southern and eastern facades. The names and ages of the 146 victims are cut into this ribbon and mirrored in a dark reflective panel at hip height. As visitors traverse the length of the memorial, the names of the victims overhead appear in the reflective panel, as if written in the sky. Testimonies of survivors and eyewitnesses to the fire are etched as a single line of text along the lower edge of the reflective panel, inviting the visitor to look down into the reflection and discover the names of the victims and their stories.
A second phase of the installation, expected to be completed this winter, will expand the steel “ribbon” to the window sill of the 9th floor, where many victims jumped to their deaths. The ribbon will project from the corner of the building, recalling the signs that once hung there as well as mourning ribbons or bunting that are draped on buildings at times of public grief.
“The Triangle fire was a pivotal moment in labor history,” said Edgar Romney, Secretary-Treasurer of Workers United – SEIU. “The labor movement was instrumental in getting this memorial built, and we are honored to have partnered with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition to pay tribute to the legacy of these workers and dedicate one of the few memorials to workers in the country.”
“The Triangle Fire Memorial pays tribute to workers who lost their lives over a century ago and inspires us to join together in the fight for worker justice today,” said Mary Anne Trasciatti, President of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition Board of Directors.
“It is gratifying for all the family members of those who died in this tragic fire to know that through the memorial, this and future generations will learn about the fire and its significance in labor history,” said Suzanne Pred Bass, whose great-aunt Rosie Weiner was lost in the fire. “We can take heart in the knowledge that it will inspire people and raise awareness of what is possible when we work together to better the lives of workers struggling for fair wages, decent benefits and safe working conditions. All of us can celebrate that we now have a tangible site for collective memory and collective action.”
“As the current steward of the building where the tragedy occurred, NYU deeply appreciates the collaboration we have forged with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition on this memorial, and we are honored to have partnered together to ensure that the memory of those who died more than a century ago – and the lessons learned from that tragedy – are never lost,” said NYU President Linda G. Mills. “We congratulate the Coalition for their perseverance in seeing this project through and making this important memorial a reality.”
In 2013, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition launched a 2-phase, international competition to design a permanent memorial for the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on the site of the tragedy in New York. The winning proposal, by Uri Wegman and Richard Joon Yoo, was selected by the jury from nearly 180 submissions from around the world. The memorial has been made possible with a generous grant of $1.5 million from the State of New York, and by funding from foundations, labor unions, and thousands of other supporters. In addition, New York University, the current owner of the building, has been a longstanding and valued partner in this successful effort.
Speakers at today’s event will include Acting Secretary Su, Governor Hochul, NYS Commissioner of Labor Roberta Reardon, NYC Council Member Gale Brewer; representatives of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, Workers United/SEIU (ILGWU), the New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, family members of the Triangle Fire Victims, New York University, American Society of Safety Professionals, and the FDNY. Musical and artistic performances will include the New York City Labor Chorus, Singer Jameel McKanstry, Cellist Lori Goldston, and Poet Janet Zandy.
Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition
The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition connects individuals and organizations with the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire — one of the pivotal events in US history and a turning point in labor’s struggle to achieve fair wages, dignity at work and safe working conditions. The Coalition is spearheading the building of the permanent memorial to the Triangle Fire victims at the site of the original fire. Go to www.rememberthetrianglefire.org to find out more.
Workers United is a labor union representing more than 86,000 members across the United States and Canada working in private and government agencies in the apparel and textile industries, hospitality, food service, laundry, manufacturing, distribution, as well as in non-profit organizations. Workers United grew out of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. Organizers for Local 25 of the ILGWU were attempting to organize the Triangle Shirtwaist factory at the time of the fire in 1911.
New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
The New York City Central Labor Council (NYCCLC) is a non-profit labor membership organization devoted to supporting, advancing, and advocating for the working people of New York City. As the nation’s largest regional labor federation, the NYCCLC brings together 300 local unions from every trade, occupation, public and private sector of the New York City economy. It represents more than one million workers, including teachers, truck drivers, operating engineers, nurses, construction workers, electricians, firefighters, retail workers, janitors, train operators, bakers, and many more who are the backbone of today’s workforce.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Contact: Kate Whalen, 347-453-7131, firstname.lastname@example.org (NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO)