For the occasion volunteers had sewn one hundred and forty-six shirtwaists fastened to bamboo poles, and handed to marchers as they arrived, so that it seemed as though these 146 shirtwaists “marched” down Broadway to the building that now functions as NYU’s Brown Building for its science program.
Drummers led the march of individuals and groups, some carrying union banners as wide as the street. Janet and I carried one Shirtwaist together. Yes, it was very stirring to be part of what seemed eventually to be several thousand people and almost as many photographers. When we got to the building, just a block from Washington Square, we stopped to face a large platform filled with dignitaries, singers, musicians, and an enormous television screen high in the air (as well as many loudspeakers) so all of us—stretching back to Union Square—could see and hear a range of people, from folksingers to the U.S. Secretary of Labor—all truly inspiring.
The next night, we were among the few hundred people at Judson Memorial Church who witnessed the opening performance of a magnificent new oratorio by Elizabeth Swados called “Out of the Smoke.” Some 36 young woman and men sang individually and in groups and acted out and sang about immigrant life in and around sweat shops in 1911, and then, yes, the fire itself. Swados is a genius and her music as brilliant as ever. But this was more than the music, for it had been choreographed, costumed, and directed with meticulous care and creativity, using only long benches as props. The voices as well as the libretto were inspiring.
My dear friend Alida Brill has also written on the Triangle Fire. Read more here: http://fromthisterrace.com/?p=356