March 25, 2011 marks the Centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City, in which 146 people were killed and 71 injured – still the most deadly workplace accident in US history. Most of those killed were immigrant women and girls.

Poor safety standards contributed significantly to the tragedy, such as lack of adequate alarms and the practice of locking employees into rooms so they could not leave work early. Many of the victims leapt to their deaths from the ninth and tenth floors, which lacked fire escapes and which the firemen’s ladders could not reach.

In the wake of this horrible event, public pressure mounted on employers to provide better working conditions for their employees. As a result, New York City created the Bureau of Fire Investigation, which gave the fire department greater power to enforce fire safety regulations. The fire also proved a watershed moment for labor organization, spurring large numbers of workers to join the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

To commemorate those who died in the Triangle Fire, and to honor those who have fought for the rights of working people then and now, several faculty members in Discover New York are including a unit on the Triangle Fire in the Spring 2011 semester.

To help faculty members successfully integrate the Triangle Fire into their courses, the library has created a Triangle Fire Libguide, which directs students to books, journal articles, newspaper articles, photographs, and eyewitness accounts. Since some of the material in the Guide is copyright protected, it requires a password to access. The password can be obtained by contacting Professor Ben Turner at turnerb@stjohns.edu.

We hope you find this guide useful, and welcome your input.

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