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View Diary: How regulation came to be: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire (40 comments)

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  •  Last night I went to this world premier... (7+ / 0-)

    performance described here:

    The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, 1911

    An Original Cantata  

    by Artist-in-Residence Yale Strom

    Join us for the world premiere of an original composition of music and song commemorating the lives of the Jewish and Italian immigrants who lived in the Lower East Side and tragically died on March 25th, 1911 in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire which, until 09/11, was the worst single calamity in New York history.


    Yale Strom - violin,  

    Elizabeth Schwartz - vocalist,  

                            Mark Dresser - contrabass,                          

    Fred Benedetti - guitar/mandolin,  

    Lou Fanucchi - accordion/vocals

    Introduced by Professor of Women's History Dr. Susan Gonda, Grossmont College

    I tried to write a review for the local paper, as there will be a second performance next month but I just can't find the words.  Here is my preface so far:
    ------------------------An ordinary day at the factory

    They were mostly young Jewish women, girls they were called in those days, whether young mothers trying to support children or teenagers whose life of drudgery had already began,   They were young because the long hours of exacting effort to  sew enough blouses, shirtwaists they were called, to get a coveted spot in the croweded noisy airless factories was too much for those with the failing eyesight of middle age.  While these girls were predominantly Jewish, similar conditions existed for the gentile men of appalacia, whose dust that choked their lungs was made of coal rather than cotton, or of slaughter house workers in Chicago, the great masses of propertyless people  who took what they could get from the behemouth of industrializtion that had changed their world.  All of those people, men and women, young and old,  provided the counterpoint to what was then known as the Gilded Age in America.

    Workers Compension, unemployment insurance, child labor laws, workplace safety.....if they existed at all they were honored in their breach.  So, nothing prevented the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory from locking in the hundreds of women huddled over their Singer Sewing Machines that Saturday afternoon,  surounded by high piles of oil soaked fabric scrap.   No doors to the stairwell, no water to douse the flames, only only way out were these scraps to catch fire.....the windows, the large inviting windows, overlooking the skyline of Manhattan, and the sidewalk, ten stories below.

    How do we give homage to the hundred and forty six people who died that afternoon, either from the flames or the fall that gave them a few more seconds of precious, terror filled life.  The last survivor died only recently and now we have fewer who remembered it first hand, but they are still around.  In actuallity, those who died in this tragedy are each responsible for giving a longer, fuller, and more satisfying life to thousands perhaps even millions.  Working conditions, no matter how terrible, of those at the bottom strata of society were before this considered just the way things were.  Those who made policy, those very few who were living the gilded life of the gilded age, simply averted their eyes, and continued to be thankful that it wasn't them who had to live like this.

    The graphic images, the wailing of family of destroyed life, was too much to be ignored.  The rock had been lifted on the underside of the American success story, and we had a flash, an unbearable glimpse in real time of the suffering of those who made it work.  Guilt, fear, conscience all was unleashed on this tragic saturday in downtown New York. Workers Unite, was no longer a call of radicals who would destroy the American way of life, it was a call to conscioune that could no longer be ignored.  

    It's difficult to put into words all that this meant.  After the performance I noticed that a man was singing along with the Yiddish songs.  When I talked to him I noticed an accent,  that he said was French, and he gave his year of birth, 1938.  I immediately knew his history, that he was protected by the Catholic nuns of Southern France, while his parents were killed in the concentration camps.  He asked if I could read his mind, but I knew the history of that era.

    The joy that was on his face being among his people, even to commemorate a horrible moment of our history provided a rare moment of identification.  And, as I wrote, suffering is NOT a Jewish thing, but universal.

    It is a time to reflect.

    •  Beautiful writing. (4+ / 0-)

      You should make it a diary.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 07:29:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Your Article Preface Looks Great Already arodb! (3+ / 0-)

      I thought you might want to know, so you can fix it, you have one typo here. Typos, we always need someone else to proofread, seems no matter how many times I proofread, those typos still get past me!

      only only way out were these scraps to catch fire

      I think, since it's a newspaper article you're writing you have a little more than a preface here. A few more paragraph's and you've got it! Maybe three, not that I would tell you how to write, but love it so far and just had to give my 2 cents.

      My Grandfather was a bookbinder in a warehouse on tenth ave. in NYC all his life at the beginning of the twentieth century. He came all the way from Russia all by himself!
      Yes suffering is Universal, but Jewish People have gotten more than their share of it!

      I would go see the performance again next month. It sounds so inspiring and sure to help you write what you feel. Music always inspires me! Unless you have to have the article finished before then of course. I think your doing great as it is. It looks almost finished to me.

      Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

      by rebel ga on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 09:27:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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