Remember The Triangle Fire Coalition

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Annie Nicholas, a story from Ben Nicholas’ book

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Annie Nicholas, 1904

Contributed by : David L Nicholas

Object # 1326

Photographic reproduction and excerpt from Ben Nicholas’ book, “My first 40 Years”. Ben was Triangle fire victim Annie Nicholas’ brother. I am her great nephew.

Courtesy of : B. Nicholas, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons

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Commentary

Excerpted and abridged from “My First 40 Years”
by Ben Nicholas  (Annie Nicholas’ brother)

“…We were living in the Bronx on East 152 Street, near the subway station…  Annie worked as a seamstress on foot operated sewing machines for the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. I was still in school when on March 25th, 1911 a fire broke out, all doors were locked to keep out visitors and from workers sneaking out. The doors opened inside, thus trapping hundreds of girls behind the locked doors. Bodies were piled high, burnt beyond recognition. We couldn’t find Annie, but Raisele, Mother’s friend found her. It was the most dreadful blow, Mother never really recovered from it.

The funeral attracted many people, many friends and landsmen. It started from the Lemberger synagogue on the East Side, the hearse followed by a long line of mourners, some old bearded Jews shaking alms boxes, begging for donations for the poor and for the National fund to purchase land in Jerusalem. Most Jewish families had similar alms boxes in their homes. She was buried in the Lemberger’s section of the cemetery where both our parents now life. At the grave site, the rabbi cut a section of the male’s clothes, “rent the garment” sort of, we have to wear during the Shiva, the seven day mourning period. All mirrors were covered, we sat in stocking feet on wooden boxes and ate on larger boxes. Neighbors came in each morning, formed a minyon of 12 males for morning prayers and returned each evening.

…The Red Cross visited us later to express sympathy, gave mother $100 to help for the loss of Annie’s wages. It was gratefully accepted. The great tragedy of this event brought revulsion throughout the country and a demand to reform, the working conditions for women, that for the first time, new laws were enacted to protect working women. One of the leaders of this movement was Francis Perkins, later appointed FDR’s Secretary of Labor, the first woman in a Presidential Cabinet.”