On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory caught on fire, killing 145 workers trapped inside the burning building. Women either jumped to their death or were burned alive; within 18 minutes, most of the workers were dead. The majority of victims were young Jewish and Italian immigrant women whose death could have been prevented. Only one of the building’s four elevators worked, with the working elevator unreachable; one of the stairway doors was locked, the other opened inward making it nearly inaccessible; and the fire escape was too narrow to accommodate the number of workers.
The tragedy helped unite organized labor movements and shed light on the harsh working conditions women and other factory workers faced.