Today’s post remembers Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workers, seen at their sewing machines in the undated image above. On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire claimed the lives of 146 garment workers. Of those lost in this preventable fire, nearly all were young Italian and European Jewish immigrant women.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Workers

These Manhattan garment workers–and tens of thousands just like them in New York and major US cities–labored long hours in stifling conditions. Most women earned from $3 to $6 for 60+ hours of work each week.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Workers immigrant women garment trade

Interior of Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. (Courtesy tenement.org)

From their meager wages, many Triangle workers supported their families living in Lower East Side tenements. Others sent funds to family still in Europe.

The lives of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workers illuminate how our relatives and ancestors in the “needle trades” lived. Fortunately, we know much immigrant ancestors because of the work of the Tenement Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

The Tenement Museum & the Garment Trade

Combining primary source research and building preservation, the Tenement Museum sheds light on lives that once were overlooked. Offering virtual and in-person tours of the preserved tenement building at 97 Orchard Street, the museum also offers lesson plans, a podcast, blog, and virtual exhibits and events. Two events are of special interest to genealogists researching immigrant ancestors from Europe.

Sweatshop Workers Historical Apartment Virtual Tour

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Workers immigrant women garment trade

Interior of the Rogarshevsky tenement flat, part of the Tenement Museum’s Sweatshop Workers virtual tour. (Courtesy tenement.org)

By the turn of the 20th Century, the Lower East Side was both the center of the nation’s garment production, and a focus of its immigrant life.

The Sweatshop Workers virtual tour shares the stories of two families, the Levines and the Rogarshevskys, who lived at 97 Orchard Street. During a one-hour tour, visit each of their apartments to explore the ways immigrants, past and present, have navigated work, culture, and religious  identity.

Register here for the virtual Sweatshop Workers Historical Apartment Tour.

Piecing It Together: Tenements, Factories & Unions Virtual Tour

Join this virtual tour to explore the tragedy’s lasting impact. Learn about women who worked in New York’s garment trade and their activism for workers’ rights.

Join this program here on March 25 2021, at 7:00pm ET.  Please note: This program will only be available for 24 hours after it airs on YouTube.