All our words are written down in chalk out in the rain on the sidewalk
March 26, 2013 2:56 AM   Subscribe

Each year on March 25, the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Ruth Sergel and a team of volunteers have installed "Chalk," a public art project commemorating the lives lost that day in 1911. Sergel, who also founded the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition has made a publicly available data map that records "the name, home address, likely age, country of origin, and final resting place of all known Triangle Fire victims." Says Sergel, "The chalk will wash away but the following year we return, insisting on the memory of these lost young workers."

Of the 146 killed, 129 were women, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants. The doors to at least one exit had been locked so management could check their purses for stolen items before they left. At trial, witnesses described seeing 62 people jump to their deaths.

Some volunteers chalk for their own relatives, while others do so to memorialize the event that helped launch the modern labor movement and put new focus on workplace safety. The RTF Coalition is currently organizing a permanent memorial design competition.

See also the Stolperstein project.
posted by liketitanic (7 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

Some irony in the date here in Michigan. In two days we mourn our State's Governor and legislature's creation of the "Right to Work" law (going into effect on March 28th, 2013) , which is their effort to destroy everything that the labor movement has done for all of us and will throw this state back into the type of conditions and management abuse that allows for events like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

This is a good post.. too many people have forgotten why unions were, and ARE, so necessary.
posted by HuronBob at 3:08 AM on March 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

It would be nice if memorials like this could be used as evidence the next time an "unanticipated workplace tragedy" occurs. Because, you know, there is history. There is evidence. It's just cheaper to let people be injured, crippled, or die and then pretend that you are surprised and shocked. Maybe then we could stop memorializing tragedies so much as prosecuting crimes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:38 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I didn't learn about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire until I was in my 30s. My kids know about it before their teens. It is the perfect example of why regulation and collective action are essential. It is a horrifying parable.
posted by bystander at 6:38 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a close friend who is a descendent of the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory – it's really very strange to hear another perspective on a historical event that, previously, had seemed unerringly straightforward to me. Okay, it still does, but I'm sure her assertions that "it was actually one of the safer factories at the time" are probably true enough, though no excuse. This kind of thing was happening all the time, people were getting sick of it, and the (mostly) young women who became unwilling martyrs to the labor laws cause deserve to be remembered in perpetuity.
posted by Mooseli at 6:56 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire also sparked the beginning of International Women's Day - a day for women from around the world to march and demand their rights.
posted by what's her name at 7:10 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this - I attended the memorial last year, and it - especially the ringing of the bells and chimes at the moment the fire started - was very moving.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:42 AM on March 26, 2013

And, the poem.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:27 PM on March 26, 2013

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