Bucuresti Municipality, Romania
|Death: ||Mar. 25, 1911|
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Victim. Given the discrepancies of record transcription of the time, I believe Lizzie appears in Ellis Island records as Lisa Adler. Although her first name, age and the address of her destination in New York differ from accepted information, the similarities are striking enough that I feel confident in matching this document with Lizzie. She set sail from Hamburg, Germany on the S.S. Amerika on December 9, 1910, arriving in the US on December 20 with $20 in her pocket. Her occupation is listed as dressmaker and she planned to live with her brother, Jankel (Jacob) in New York City. She was 5' 4", with light brown hair and grey eyes. It is also recorded that she could neither read nor write, leading me to believe she spoke no or very little English which could explain the documentation inconsistencies. In 1911, 3 months and 5 days after her arrival in the US, 24 (or 18?) year old Lizzie was a garment worker at the Triangle Waist Company on the 9th 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 elevator was 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 the trial held after, it was a common practice to lock factory workers in to prevent them from stealing) and the only fire escape proved too flimsy and collapsed under the weight of the escaping workers. Many died from being overcome by the smoke and flames quickly filling the building, but 62 of the workers realized there were no other means of escape and jumped from the windows to the pavement 9 stories below. Although the fire department responded quickly, the water from their hoses would 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.
From her documented injuries and cause of death, Lizzie was most likely one of those who jumped. Her body was reportedly identified on March 26 by her brother, Jacob. I believe she appears as Case #2 in the April 1912 Final Report of the Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee: "A girl 24 years old was killed, She had been only three months in America, was living with a married brother, paying no board, and sending four or five dollars a week out of her wages of six dollars to help two sisters in Roumania. One of the sisters was married and had one child and was expecting another. The other was a girl of 14. Both the Jewish Colonization Association and the American Consul-General in Bucharest confirmed the statement about the amount of money sent, and reported that the sisters were looking forward to coming to New York as soon as they had got together the necessary funds, which they thought would be soon after the birth of the expected child. The husband, a barber, earned not more than two francs a day. $25.00 was given to the brother in New York on April 25 to send to his sisters; $250.51 was sent to them through the American Consul-General in Bucharest on May 8; $50.00 was given to the brother on May 15 for a tombstone."
The public outrage and subsequent acquittal of the company's owners following the tragedy paved the way for a flood of legislation to improve factory safety standards, led to the founding of The American Society of Safety Engineers and hastened the growth and clout of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. A bystander who witnessed the young girls 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 single worst workplace disaster in New York City until the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
Mount Richmond Cemetery
Richmond County (Staten Island)
New York, USA
Maintained by: TomDuse
Originally Created by: Jennifer
Record added: May 13, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 10956773