Skip to Content

Remembering the Triangle Fire

Posted by Caitlin Tracey-...
4 December 2012 - 12:18pm

On March 25, 1911, 146 Triangle Waistcoast Factory workers, mostly young female immigrants, were killed in a fire that broke out moments before the end of the work day. The tragedy was exacerbated by poor safety conditions, including locked fire escapes, and many victims jumped to their deaths as horrified New Yorkers looked on. This event served as a catalyst for the labor movement and hastened the improvement of workplace safety in the United States. 2011 marked the 100 year anniversary of the fire, and the city of New York remembered those who had perished and those who survived in a variety of ways, emphasizing the relevance and impact of the event today.

The Triangle Fire was the deadliest workplace disaster in New York City before 9-11, and it has left a mark on the city's collective memory. New York University graduate students in museums studies partnered with the Grey Art Gallery, and presented an exhibit entitled Art/Memory/Place. This exhibit told the story of the fire and its commemoration, including the 50th  and 100th anniversaries.  It featured visual art inspired by the fire, and challenged visitors to think about how it is remembered, and has been remembered at different times. For more information on their project, check out the website:

New York University has a unique connection to the fire's history, since NYU students in an adjacent building helped some workers to safety (

Cornell University published a website entitled: Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire:

The website provides scanned photographs and primary documents, historical background, and information about events before and after the fire. It offers additional tools for understanding, such as a map of the 9th floor, where the fire claimed the most lives, bibliographic resources, and tips for high school researchers. It is easy to navigate and rich in information.

There is also the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition ( This group strives to educate, memorialize, and engage communities through special projects and social media sites. They also advocate for workers rights today. 

Horrors like the Triangle Fire are not gone for our world. Only a week ago, a hundred workers, many of them women, perished in a textile factory fire in Bangladesh. The ongoing struggle for worker's safety is part of the reason it is so important to remember the Triangle Fire.

How do you bring local traumatic histories into the classroom to connect with current human rights struggles? How do local difficult histories enrich your teaching of national historical narratives?