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Grandma and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Tragedy March 26, 2011

Posted by judylobo in Jewish Stuff, Photography, Politics, Religion.

Much has been written about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy that happened 100 years ago this week. 146 lives were lost. It was the beginning of a strong labor movement in NYC and many laws were changed to protect workers.

My grandmother, Anna Osipow Goldberg worked at that factory.  She did not go to work the day of the fire.  Why, you may ask?  I never got a straight answer to that question.  By the time I was old enough to understand the consequences of that tragic day, my grandma was consumed by what we called in those days, ‘senility.’  It was probably Alzheimer’s Disease, but that word was not in the lexicon in way back then.  My grandma was a tough, stern, unsmiling, woman.  She did not want to talk about her childhood in Czarist Russia, she did not want to talk about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory – in fact – she did not want to talk of much at all.  Whenever she wanted to speak, it seemed to me as a child, that she spoke in Yiddish.  I think I assumed she did not want us ‘kids’ to know what she was speaking about.

All these years later – I wish I had asked the right questions.  I sure would like to know why she never smiled.  Maybe she was thinking about all of those lives lost – I do not know.



1. bumper sticker - March 26, 2011

Wow. Amazing that your grandma worked in the factory and didn’t go into work that day! It really brings home how fragile our destiny really is. Best to just eat, drink, and be merry.

2. Helen - March 26, 2011

One of the children in the picture is your mother?

3. Jim - March 26, 2011

Someday you’ll have the answers to all those unasked questions.

4. Jennifer - March 27, 2011

Wow – how fortunate that she didn’t go to work that day. And I think that so many people from those generations dealt with tragedy by simply never speaking about it. She must have been a very strong woman to endure such tragedies… but then of course, she’s your grandmother so I would expect nothing less. Love the picture!

5. Linc - March 27, 2011

wow! another amazing new york story….there must be a way you can find out why she didn’t go to work….doctor appt? perhaps ancestor.com could shed some light?

6. IrishNewYorker - March 28, 2011

Wonderful story, Judy. I’ll be writing a story on why my ancestors didn’t share their stories in the next few days. This will be from an Irish-American’s perspective but I have a feeling your ancestors were feeling similarly. Any more on this story or something similar related to your family’s NYC experience? I can’t get enough of New York stories.

7. The Florida Sista - March 28, 2011

Wonderful story, Judy. And I love the photo. When I saw this story on the news, I had no idea that your Grandmother was connected to it. Thank God she did not go to work that day for whatever reason. Sounds like she was a strong woman, with very strong grandaughters 🙂

8. IrishNewYorker - March 29, 2011

I’ll be attending a seminar Thursday night at NYU’s Ireland House concerning the impact of the Triangle Fire. It should be very interesting.
Although I don’t have an ancestral connection to the fire as you do, my grand uncle was one of the passersby who stood outside the building as the tragic events unfolded. Further, a number of years ago, I attended a class in Irish History in the same building.

9. Judith Wagonfeld - March 29, 2011

Oh, that generation and their keeping things inside. How much all of us would like to know.

10. Karen Gottlieb - April 1, 2011

This is such a touching story. When I hear something like this it makes me wonder..do we really have free will or is our fate predetermined? When I volunteered for Canter Fitzgerald after the World Trade disaster I was amazed at the large number of people that didn’t go to work that day, were late for work or were just on interviews that fateful day. We will never know why your grandmother was saved…maybe she had been through so much in her life (from her childhood in Russia) that G-d spared her. My grandfather lived in Russia during the same time as your grandmother and he never spoke of the past either. Some things are just too painful to talk about. I for one am very greatful that she survived.

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