Friday is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The PBS series, “The American Experience,” has a really great portal with video, pictures and articles about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a pivotal moment in gaining fair conditions and rights for the working class of America. Before, there wasn’t much in the way of Federal laws protecting workers at that level, including children. After the fire, many laws went into effect that still govern the workplace today.
It’s easy for me, as a modern working mother, to sit in my office and be oblivious of all the things that have gone my working day that I take for granted. From the top of my head:
- Eight-hour working day, not standard until 1937, as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Automatic sprinkler system, invented in 1890.
- Elevators that are fairly safe, invented in 1852 by Elisha Otis.
- Electrical air conditioning, invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier.
- Desktop computers, made their appearance in the 1970s.
- The Internet, in 1982 as the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized.
- The Bra, the modern version showed up in the early 20th century.
Ok, maybe not the last one although I have worn a corset and it gets really uncomfortable after four hours of sitting in a chair. I firmly believe that the evolution of women’s fashion directly corresponds to the increase of working women and the ability of women to work outside the home, but that is another topic.
It’s been a while since I last read or viewed photos of working conditions in the past. I watched the PBS episode mentioned above and the conditions in which people worked seem almost unbelievable. I am very lucky to be able to do what I do, how I do it and enjoy a comparatively good quality of life-work balance. For the sacrifices of the working women who came before me, I am eternally grateful.