On the morning of March 25, 1911, hundreds of garment workers, locked in on the 9th floor of the Asch Building in New York City, went about their normal day to day activities as a spare cigarette butt or match not fully put out began to burn in a bin of discarded fabric on the floor below. Within a half hour, the fire would kill one hundred and forty-six people, the majority being Italian and Jewish immigrant women, aged 14-23 years old. the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire would be deemed the deadliest workplace disaster in New York History and have lasting repercussions for labor movements in the United States.
The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union sought fair wages, safer working conditions, union recognition, and even sexual harassment protections for its workers. The ILGWU found its place in Cleveland, Ohio as early as 1903 and by 1911 the ILGWU was thoroughly entrenched in Cleveland garment factories. The Plain Dealer reported in 1911: “A feature peculiar to strikes in the garment trade, is the number of women involved. Of the 1,500 women on strike or out of employment because of the strike are mothers young and old, young women and girls not yet out of short dresses.”
This program about The ILGWU in Cleveland, Ohio is presented for Women’s History Month by our Museum Education & Tour Manager, Stephanie Bohnak, and will be available on Zoom on March 28 at 7pm. Advanced registration is required and you can register here. If you have any further questions about this event, please contact us at [email protected] or by calling us at 440-774-1700
Photo: Women in an ILGWU affiliated union marching during the 1916 NYC May Day parade, courtesy The Library of Congress