Sunday, March 9, 2008


Inspired by the Women’s March, which took place on the 8th, Carmela, her sister and Mesta, a fifteen year old Polish communist led a sit down strike in solidarity with the marching women. Mesta’s name was an acronym. M stood for Marx. E was for Engels. S – Stalin. T for Trotsky and A for her grandfather who was one of the most daring Anarchist agitators in Warsaw – Aronovitch. Thus - Mesta.

The Triangle Shrtwaist factory was one of the most infamous places to work in New York. Therefore one should not be surprised to learn that it was also a protest against their intolerable working conditions.

The strike dragged on for days. The women had brought meager provisions, which they shared among themselves. Nothing their vicious employer did could force them out of the Cotton factory. They were impervious to threats.

‘All you c---s are all fired unless you walk out this instant,” shouted a frustrated and furious Mr. Johnson. The BOSS.

“Basta!” they shouted back. Nothing and no one could and would move these women to end their strike.

Fiends under orders from ? The heinous Johnson perhaps? We use the word perhaps because no inquiries, investigations or inquiries were ever conducted. I repeat, fiends/monsters blocked all the exits of the factory by placing heavy metal boxes down the stairs and against the doors to prevent the women from escaping the holocaust that had been decreed for them.

Fire broke out at about 4:30p.m. at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company trapping young, immigrant workers behind locked doors. Many jumped to their deaths or were burned beyond recognition. The 18-minute fire left 146 dead

That was a holocaust. I challenge anyone to tell me otherwise.

The youngest to be consumed was twelve years old. She was Carmela, a Sicilian girl. Her five cousins all in their early teens and her 18 year old sister all burnt to nothing.

They all died unimaginably horrible deaths. According to Rosa Luxemburg in Germany who wrote endless articles and pamphlets about the martyrs in New York’s garment district, many of the women formed a huge circle when they realized the smoke would kill them and embraced each other. They were told to scream because the smoke would sear their lungs faster and their suffering would end.

To remember the tragedy Rosa Luxemburg proclaimed the day March 8, as the International Day of the Woman.

Who was Rosa Luxemburg? She was a brilliant, charismatic intellectual and militant. An anarchist genius, who was one of the founders of the German Communist Party. Her work “The Acquisition of Wealth“ is a masterpiece. I don’t agree with all of her actions and thoughts, but as Voltaire often wrote and declared “I will defend her right to say them.”

We owe much to Rosa Luxemburg for keeping the story of this holocaust alive. Rosa unlike Betty Friedan, did not hate men. Indeed she had tempestuous affairs with them. It is a tragedy that her works in the United States were only read by intellectuals such as Arthur Miller, Herbert Marcuse, Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky. As a secular thinker she raised the status of women without destroying the family. That is why her works and her articles bear infinitely more weight than "The Feminine Mystique"

In 1911, she hosted the International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen. Many women proposed the 25th of March as the day to commemorate the tragedy and to remind women throughout the world that the struggle had just begun since the fire took place on the 25th of March 1908. We can only marvel a hundred years to the day at the inner strength and iron will of those young garment workers. They held out for 17 days. Their “Basta!” lasted that long. March the 25th is the feast of Our Lady of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel informed Mary that she would give birth to Jesus.

Rosa, ever the atheist, nixed that. She proposed a compromise. The first official protest anywhere in the world in the 20th century took place in New York on the 8th of March.

“We shall commemorate the women who perished in that holocaust every March 8 till the end of the world," said Rosa.

They did not die in vain as new laws were passed to protect children and others from slave-type labor conditions. It was a turning point in labor laws -- especially concerning health and safety.

And that is why we remember and march and feel a particular and profound passion for our Sisters, living and dead. For our Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters and granddaughters. Onward Women of the Earth.

For more information about this tragic event, go to:

For video - which includes stories from some of the survivors go to:

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