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“The Factory Girl’s Danger” published in The Outlook

April 15, 1911

The Outlook: An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Current Life (1870–1935) was a weekly magazine published in New York City.  On April 15, 1911, a scant three weeks after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the magazine published “The Factory Girl’s Danger.”  Written by Miriam Finn Scott, the piece was a reconstruction of the night before the disaster from the perspective of two sisters, Gussie and Becky. 

Scott recounts the dinnertime conversation as later pieced together by the sisters’ landlady, because their talk was “indelibly stamped upon her mind.”  They describe their hard-driving boss, the solid rows upon rows of machines, the cramped working conditions—but mostly the danger of what they would face in case of a fire.  They dream of quitting work, but are painfully aware of their plight.  Where else could they go? How could they survive financially?  “No, we've got to keep on working, no matter what the danger.  It's work or starve.  That's all there is to it," concludes Gussie.

The girls’ hard fate the next day is recounted at the end of the story, one of several primary documents in JWA’s Living the Legacy curriculum. 

In Living the Legacy’s Unit 1, Lesson 2: From Suffering to Action, From the Individual to the Collective there are document studies with photographic impressions of the factories and their workers.  These include descriptions by women and girls of the tedium, suspicion, and harsh supervision they faced in the factories.  One of them, Pauline Newman writes, “As I look back to those years of actual slavery I am quite certain that the conditions under which we worked and which existed in the factory of the Triangle Waist Co. were the acme of exploitation perpetrated by humans upon defenceless [sic] men, women and children—a sort of punishment for being poor and docile…” 

In articles like “The Factory Girl’s Danger” and other first-hand accounts, the full ramifications of the fire were brought home to readers in a personal way.  Without them, the social transformations that resulted – reform of the labor code, fire safety regulations, and the push for fair wages, job protection, and worker safety connected to the rise of unions – might not have occurred. 

Sources: “The Factory Girl’s Danger,” Living the Legacy; “The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire,” International Labor Relations, Cornell University.  

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Garment Factory circa 1910
Full image
A large garment factory, circa 1910.
Courtesy of ILGWU Archives, Kheel Center, Cornell University

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "“The Factory Girl’s Danger” published in The Outlook." (Viewed on September 21, 2017) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/apr/15/1911/factory-girl-s-danger-published-in-outlook>.

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