HBO Documentary Films recently premiered "Triangle: Remembering The Fire" at New York University in Greenwich Village.
Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the movie was produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marc Levin.
"These young ladies had been protesting on the streets only two years earlier in what was called 'The Uprising of the 20,000,' which was the first mass strike in New York led by women garment workers," says Levin. "They had been beaten by police and brutalized and arrested, so I think there was also a feeling of guilt. We didn't listen to them, we didn't hear their complaints about working conditions and now we were watching them burn to death and leap to their death."
Producer-director Daphne Pinkerson used unusual sources for the film.
"We actually hooked up with a genealogist who was able to track down all of these people and who told us these amazing stories, and you really see how the pain of this tragedy reverberates through the generations," says Pinkerson.
Leigh Benin was one relative of a fire victim that the genealogist found.
George Whipple: Did your grandmother ever talk to you about the way it sort of changed the world, changed the laws and changed labor relations?
Benin: Well, she talked about how important being in the ILGWU [International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union] was for her, and how she felt when she got her first union paycheck, she felt like a millionaire. Today, when they're trying to cut the budget of the OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and they're trying to decertify unions, we have to remember how we got to the place we're in and to remember that they did not die in vain. And we won't let them have died in vain, by letting all those things get taken away.
"Triangle: Remembering The Fire" will premiere on HBO on March 21.