Today marks 115 years since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City. A single dropped match started a blazing inferno in the cramped and locked rooms of the garment factory. Fire engine ladders were not tall enough to reach the windows. 146 workers died, half of them teenagers.
For years, workers had been fighting for safety and equality in the workplace. Clara Lemlich was one of the first brave voices to call for reform. Like many of the factory workers at the turn of the last century, Clara was an immigrant who had to leave school to earn money for her family’s very survival. In her case, her father’s strict devotion to religion and his unbending gender roles meant that Clara worked while he and her brothers continued religious studies. Clara quickly found that women (and girls, many as young as 11) were paid far less and faced harassing treatment. Despite a language barrier, a lack of support at home, and constant threats of violence, Clara went on to become a leader in the burgeoning labor movement. But, despite her amazing work and talent, it took the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire several years into the labor revolution to really enact major reform in United States industry. Audacity by Melanie Crowder tells Clara’s story from her early years in a Russian shetl (under constant threat from anti-Semetic soldiers) to her young adulthood in NYC where she fought for herself and others and changed the world. Click here to reserve Audacity