Friday, November 11, 2011

Working Conditions

What were the living conditions of the women who worked in the textile factories in Troy and Cohoes who visited Wiawaka? What were their family circumstances? Their working conditions? What were there lives like, and how did Wiawaka fit into that?

One of the important aspects of their lives and identities was their work in the factories. What was working in a textile factory like in the early twentieth century? (Troy was known as "Collar City" as the place where removable collars were invented and manufactured in huge numbers.) I don't yet have specific information about the Troy factories; but below is a discussion of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City by Dr. Robyn Muncy, who teaches here at the University of Maryland in the History Department. Her discussion describes the working conditions in the factory (which she describes as an example of a "good" factory for the time) and in textile factories in general. She also talks about the women's lives and how they were perceived in the labor movement.  Though there is no mention of labor relations or the specific working conditions of the factory women in the Wiawaka records that I've looked at, this was the environment in which the women worked and in which Wiawaka was organized.

If you click through to watch this on YouTube (here), you'll find links to the rest of the discussions and presentations at this conference held on the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. If you're not familiar with the fire and it's effects, you can watch the other videos and read more about it at the following excellent sites:

Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire 100 Years Later (1911-2011) by the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University. An interactive website presenting many different aspects of the Fire and the people it affected.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Trial by Douglas Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. This website explores the events in the legal context of the trial that followed.

About the Triangle Fire by Robert Pinsky of the University of Illinois. This site provides a brief history, and then presents both an eye-witness and photo-essay account of the events (be aware that the dead are present in some of these photos).

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