Today is the 108th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this event has been central to my American-Jewish identity. I’m not particularly devout; my interests lie in Jewish culture and storytelling, NYC history, labor history, immigrant rights, feminism, the value of tikkun olam (healing the world). The fire ties together all these narratives. I’ve written about the event and its aftermath for the Jewish Forward, for Tablet, and on this blog. (Google, if you want.) Right now, when human rights in this country feel precarious, it’s good to remember that a hundred years ago, young women like Clara Lemlich — a tiny dynamo who didn’t even speak English! — fought, at great personal risk, to galvanize workers to strike and succeeded in creating safer workplaces and better lives for their fellow Americans. Sweatshops are still an issue all over the world, and I don’t mean to minimize that. But today NYC has laws against child labor and to protect workers, and codes to make buildings safer. Collective action and commitment can have a real impact.
Each person was asked to bring a bit of fabric that meant something to them (a wide variety of beautiful snippets were provided for those who didn’t bring their own) and to write up why it was meaningful and why we cared about the fire. The stories and cloth were scanned (so the monument will be searchable) and then we all stitched our fabric to a giant roll of muslin laid off across dozens of work tables. Eventually the long ribbon of stories will be 3D-printed, digitally recreated, or cast in a lightweight metal alloy to become part of the memorial, mounted on the side of the Brown Building. Visually, the process of making the memorial â€” dozens of women bent over tables of fabric, stitching in unison — recalled the work of the people who were being memorialized. Unlike the actual factory workers, we all wound up chatting with the women on either side of us about why they came and what their fabric meant to them.
I look forward to learning all the stories of all the fabric scraps when the memorial is complete; you can find out how to help here.
Hi Marjorieâ€” I am working with a feminist artist on some holloween themed illustrations. I have provided you her with maya gram handle in the â€œwebsiteâ€ box above. We found a tweet of your that mentioned â€œperformative wokus pocus.â€ We would like to bring this into an illustration we are making. Can we connect? Either shoot me and email or a text (512) 701-1830.
Also, we wouldnâ€™t be making any money off of this and would love to credit you/your daughter in the caption.
I’m not comfortable with this. But thanks for asking.