|Birth: ||Sep., 1888|
|Death: ||Mar. 25, 1911|
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Victim. Clotilde was 19 years old when she set sail for the United States, with her younger brother Ignazio, from Naples, Italy on December 17, 1907. Originally from Licata, Italy, they sailed on the SS Madonna to join their sister Rosina in Brooklyn, New York, landing at Ellis Island on New Year's Eve with approximately $24 between them. A little over three years later, in 1911, then 22 year old Clotilde was a garment worker at the Triangle Waist Company on the 10th floor of the Asch Building in New York City.
The company made women's blouses, known as "waists" or "shirtwaists", and it's workers were mostly recent immigrant German, Italian and European Jewish girls, some as young as 13 years old, although older women and men and young boys were also represented. Their working conditions were far from safe. They worked 14 hour shifts among heaps of flammable bolts of fabric, scraps of which piled up in bins, baskets and on the floor around them; tissue paper patterns hung from racks above their worktables. The workrooms were lit by open flame gas lamps and the cutters, mostly men, were allowed to smoke as they worked. Brought on by a New York garment workers strike in 1910, many had joined the fledgling International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. At the conclusion of the strike, most companies had signed agreements with the union improving working conditions. The Triangle Company, however, refused to sign and was under no obligation to abide by established safety rules.
On March 25, 1911, around 4:30pm, fire broke out on the 8th floor. Most on that floor and the executives on the 10th floor were able to escape, but workers on the 9th floor, who had not been alerted to the fire, found themselves trapped. Of the four 9th floor exits, the elevators made as many trips as they could but were commandeered by 8th floor workers and then stopped working altogether, one stairwell door was soon blocked by fire and smoke, the other stairwell door had been locked (although denied by the owners in their subsequent trial, it was common practice to lock factory workers in to prevent them from stealing) and the only fire escape collapsed under the weight of the escaping workers. Many died from being overcome by the smoke and flames quickly filling the building, some leapt down the elevator shafts, but 62 workers realized there was no other means of escape and jumped from the windows to the pavement 9 stories below. Or worse, they were pushed toward the open windows by the panicked crowd and had no choice. The fire department responded quickly, but their hoses' spray could not reach the top floors and ladders of the time were unable to reach above the 6th floor. By the time the fire was extinguished, 141 people had lost their lives. In the next few days, 5 more would die from their injuries.
Clotilde was the only death among the approximately 70 workers on the 10th floor. From the recollections of Samuel Bernstein, the Triangle's production manager, taken from Leon Stein's "The Triangle Fire", "She tore her hair and ran from window to window until finally, before anyone could stop her, she jumped out." Her body was identified by her sister Rosina. Bernstein also recalled, "She was young and very pretty. She was to leave us next Saturday to be married three weeks later." The Italian portion of her gravestone roughly translates, "Here rests, in sleep eternal, one of the victims of the Triangle Fire. This marble consecrates the love of the family."
Public outrage following the tragedy and subsequent acquittal of the company's owners paved the way for a flood of legislation to improve factory safety and hastened the growth and clout of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. A bystander who witnessed the workers jumping from the windows was inspired to a life of public service fighting for the rights of factory workers; Frances Perkins went on to become the first woman appointed to a Presidential Cabinet position as Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was the most deadly workplace disaster in New York City until the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
Holy Cross Cemetery
Kings County (Brooklyn)
New York, USA
Plot: Section Holy Name, Range 15, Grave 7
Maintained by: TomDuse
Originally Created by: Jennifer
Record added: May 18, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 10987582