The Triangle Shirt Fire: Supporting Victims' Families

One-hundred years after the tragic Triangle Waist Company fire that killed 146 mostly young immigrant female garment workers in a Manhattan building, historians point to the tragedy’s many legacies, including safe working conditions, living wages and unionized workplaces.

One lesser-known historical detail was the outpouring of donations in support of a fund for survivors’ and victims’ families.  A 1957 issue of the magazine American Heritage reminds readers that one of the earliest donors to the fund was Andrew Carnegie.

Public reaction to the Triangle tragedy was swift. Hardly had the grim process of identification of the dead begun in the morgue when members of the Women’s Trade Union League were out visiting families of the victims in the name of the Shirt Waist Makers Union in order to ascertain their immediate relief needs. On the first day of a fund appeal for victims’ families, $14,500 came in headed by a $5,000 contribution from Andrew Carnegie. Contributions to the Red Cross totaled $103,000, and additional funds raised by the Women’s Trade Union League, the unions, the Forward Association, and the Workmen’s Circle brought the sum raised to a total of $120,000.