IT WAS ONLY eight days after the March 25, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and Rose Schneiderman was in no mood for playing nice. Addressing her (mostly) middle-class audience of Women’s Trade Union League supporters, she said:
I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting. The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today; the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch on fire.