Learn American History through 50 pop songs

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Song

Synopsis

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was one of the largest industrial disasters in the history of the city of New York, causing the death of 146 garment workers, almost all of them women, who either died from the fire or jumped from the fatal height. This tragedy led to outrage and reform across the country.

Lyrics

© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

The day the fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory
Was a day like any other, just a sunny day in New York City
I remember oh so clear how the room teemed with sweat and steam
1911 was the year, Mama ran the stitch machine
We had come here to America just ten short months before
We’d fled poverty in Hungary, but here in New York we’re still poor

We came to find the American Dream we sit in sweatshops filled with steam
We spend every minute of our days for broken backs and little pay
Yet still we dream, we dream yet still we dream, we dream

But Mama, May, and I were trying hard to slowly earn
We worked from 6 to 9, had calloused hands from cuts and burns
Day dreamin’ helped me through the endless hours as they spooled
Oh please God someday let me spend my days at school
Then a spark caught my eye, I heard Mama call out my name
And in a matter of a minute the room had filled with flames

We came to find the American Dream we sit in sweatshops filled with steam
We spend every minute of our days for broken backs and little pay
Yet still we dream, we dream yet still we dream, we dream

Three hundred women worked everyday upon our floor
And every single one of them raced in panic for the doors
But the bosses had them locked with very heavy iron link chains
And those that hit them first were crushed by those who behind them came
We heard the fire engines and to the open windows we rushed
But alas their tallest ladders simply were not tall enough

The fire at our backs, the useless hoses beneath us pumping
One by one around me young women started jumping
Across the crowded room I saw Mama and my sister May
Take each other by the hand then simply fall away
One hundred fifty workers, little girls as young as twelve
Lost their lives that day and it is their story that I lived to tell

We came to find the American Dream we sit in sweatshops filled with steam
We spend every minute of our days for broken backs and little pay
Yet still we dream, we dream, still…

And then too late, outrage came too late
Laws were made too late, for the Triangle girls too late
For Mama and May, too late

We came to find the American Dream we sit in sweatshops filled with steam
We spend every minute of our days for broken backs and little pay
Yet still we dream, we dream

Vocabulary

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory— The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory took up the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the Asch Building in New York City Under the ownership of Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the factory produced women's blouses, known at the time as "shirtwaists". It was the site for one of the worst disasters in industrial American history.

Sweatshops— A sweatshop is a working environment with unhealthy conditions that are difficult or dangerous. This includes exposure to harmful materials, hazardous situations, extreme temperatures, or abuse from employers. Sweatshop workers often work long hours for little pay, regardless of any laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wage. During the industrial revolution in America sweatshops were widespread.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

What was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire? Where and when did it occur?

Tier 2 Questions

Explain the cause and effect associated with the fire and the labor laws that came after.

Tier 3 Questions

Do you think there are any sweatshops in the world today? Do you think there is child labor in the world today?

Test Prep Questions

1) The tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire of 1911 drew national attention to the need to

  • (1) restrict immigration from southern Europe
  • (2) establish full-time fire departments
  • (3) protect the safety of workers
  • (4) improve conditions for tenement dwellers