Where’s Her Movie? Labor Activist, Anna LoPizzo – 8 in a series

“Where’s HER Movie” posts will highlight interesting and accomplished women from a variety of professional backgrounds who deserve to have movies written about them as much as all the male scientists, authors, performers, and geniuses have had written about them across the over 100 years of film.  This is our attempt to help write these women back into mainstream history.  — Rosanne

Where's Her Movie? Labor Activist, Anna LoPizzo - 8 in a series

Anna LoPizzo was a striker killed during the Lawrence Textile Strike (also known as the Bread and Roses Strike), considered one of the most significant struggles in U.S. labor history. Eugene Debs said of the strike, “The Victory at Lawrence was the most decisive and far-reaching ever won by organized labor.”[1] Author Peter Carlson saw this strike conducted by the militant Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) as a turning point. He wrote, “Wary of [a war with the anti-capitalist IWW], some mill owners swallowed their hatred of unions and actually invited the AFL to organize their workers.[2]

Anna LoPizzo’s death was significant to both sides in the struggle. Wrote Bruce Watson in his epic Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream, “If America had a Tomb of the Unknown Immigrant paying tribute to the millions of immigrants known only to God and distant cousins compiling family trees, Anna LoPizzo would be a prime candidate to lie in it.”[3] — Wikipedia

An amazing article – Uncovering the History of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire via Smithsonian Magazine

Doing some research for the Norma Rae chapter in my upcoming Women’s History of Film book (co-written with my colleague Peg Lamphier) I came upon this SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE article by David von Drehle the author of a comprehensive book about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. 

I like it because he talks about the real, painstaking research work he undertook to tell the whole full story some 8 decades after it happened.  People don’t often realize the work writers do to find bits of history across several archives in order to tell one story.  

So it’s a good article for that – and for reminding us that unions work to make workplaces more safe and income more equitable and I’m tired of reading things written by people who don’t seem to remember disasters like this one – is that because they largely involved the loss of female life?Rosanne Welch

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire 520

On March 25, 1911, 146 workers perished when a fire broke out in a garment factory in New York City. For 90 years it stood as New York’s deadliest workplace disaster. (The Granger Collection, NYC)

Uncovering the History of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

The author behind the authoritative retelling of the 1911 fire describes how he researched the tragedy that killed 146 people

On March 25, 1911, a pleasant springtime afternoon, a fire broke out in a garment factory near Washington Square in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Within minutes, the entire eighth floor of the ten-story tower was full of flames. Onlookers, drawn by the column of smoke and the clamor of converging fire wagons, watched helplessly and in horror as dozens of workers screamed from the ninth-floor windows. They were trapped by flames, a collapsed fire escape and a locked door. Firefighters frantically cranked a rescue ladder, which rose slowly skyward—then stopped at the sixth floor, fully extended. Pressed by the advancing blaze, workers began leaping and tumbling to their deaths on the sidewalk. Other workers perished in the flames, still others plunged into an open elevator shaft, while behind the factory two dozen fell from the flimsy fire escape. In all, 146 workers, most of them immigrant young women and girls, perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. For 90 years it stood as New York’s deadliest workplace disaster.

Read the entire article — Uncovering the History of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire