As some of you may or may not know, I was born and raised in Greenwich Village, New York, bouncing between 63 Carmine Street and 101 St. Luke’s Place. It was the DiMaggio’s side of the family and the Pennino side of the family. It wasn’t until 5 years ago that I discovered my grandmother and her sister worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. She was 16 years old and her sister was 14. On March 25 1911, the most devastating industrial disaster. Both my grandmother and my aunt made it out safely. 146 women and children did not make it out. As a photographer, every time I photograph my grandmother, there was something that was deep and troubling in her eyes. She had a beautiful smile, but that smile was always accompanied by the troubled eyes. I love my grandmother. It was unnerving to me. I never knew what she went through. She must have been terrified her whole life by that ordeal.
“The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three; the oldest victim was 48, the youngest were two fourteen-year-old girls. Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factorysafety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.”