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"We have found you wanting"

Ninety-eight years ago today, 146 people (mostly women, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, mostly young) burned to death in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The tragedy was particularly galling because it was the result of unsafe working conditions, a lack of fire escapes, and locked exits.

We've blogged about the Triangle Fire before, so I won't go into more details here, except to share a silver lining of sorts: activists harnessed their grief and outrage to fuel a lifetime of activism.

One angry, pointed, and effective response to the fire was a speech given by labor organizer Rose Schneiderman, in which she holds citizens accountable for the poor conditions of workers' lives -- "We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting," she declares. Responses to the fire such as Schneiderman's speech ultimately spurred the creation of more effective fire and safety regulations for the workplace.

JWA recently created a set of lesson plans drawing on Schneiderman's speech and life example to explore our communal and individual responsibilities for the well being of others in our midst. Lesson plans for jr. high/high school, adults, and family education combine historical and contemporary case studies and suggest related social justice projects. Please check them out and send them to the educators in your lives.

 

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How to cite this page

Rosenbaum, Judith. ""We have found you wanting" ." 26 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 22, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/Triangle_Fire>.

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