I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting. The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today; the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch on fire.
This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in the city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred. There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death.
We have tried you citizens; we are trying you now, and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers, brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.
Public officials have only words of warning to us – warning that we must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back, when we rise, into the conditions that make life unbearable.
I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.
- Rose Schneiderman, eventual leader of the Women’s Trade Union League, in a speech following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 2011. In her audience that night was a young social worker named Frances Perkins, who would go on to become the first female Secretary of Labor (and indeed the first female cabinet member of any kind) under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Perkins witnessed the factory employees jumping to their deaths to escape the factory, and as Secretary of Labor, fought to establish and encourage most of the labor reform laws we enjoy today, including the 40 hour work week, child labor restrictions, workplace safety requirements, unemployment benefits, minimum wage, and Social Security. (via tersaudades)
timesvsmoney sez: Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Triangle Factory Fire was in 2011.