On March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant girls in their teens and 20s, perished after a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Co. factory in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Even after the fire, the city’s businesses continued to insist they could regulate themselves, but the deaths clearly demonstrated that companies like Triangle would not, on their own, concern themselves with their workers’ safety. Despite this business opposition, the public’s response to the fire led to landmark state regulations.
Rose Schneiderman was a Jewish immigrant from Poland who lived in New York City at the turn of the last century and campaigned for workers’ rights, better wages and secure safer working conditions. She served in FDR’s brain trust and was a co-founder of the ACLU. During the fight for women’s suffrage, Schneiderman famously wrote, “What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”