Friday, April 26, 2013

Revisiting the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

On March 25, 2011 I first published this blog post about a seminal disaster in our nation’s history. With the terrible tragedy of the building collapse in Bangladesh on Wednesday, I feel it is important to revisit this. I feel we need to learn from our own history and offer any support we can to Bangladeshi garment workers. The factory owners and administrative officials need to be held accountable.

More abstractly but also very importantly, we as purchasers of greatly undervalued clothing from countries such as Bangladesh, China and Vietnam need to realize that there is a risk in a cheap + plentiful equation. To reduce this risk we can demand fewer items for our own closets, purchase 2nd-hand/vintage clothing instead of newly made, and demand clothing be made by decently paid workers in safe work places...even if it costs us more.

From March 25, 2011:
One young victim’s grave. The Hebrew Free Burial Association

Today is the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant events in garment-making and labor history.

On Saturday, March 25, 1911, near quitting time, a fire broke out on the 8th floor of New York City’s Triangle Waist Company and quickly spread to the 9th and 10th floors. Within minutes 146 of the 500 employees had died in the blaze. The seamstresses—mostly young women who had recently immigrated to the US—were trapped, locked inside by the management. Numerous safety violations made their rescue impossible. The women who didn’t burn alive jumped to their deaths, to the shock of the crowd on the street.

Detail, History of the Needlecraft Industry (1938), by Ernest Fiene, High School of Fashion and Industry. A mural commissioned by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). From the New Deal Network

The horror of the tragedy casts a shadow even to this day.

After the fire, public sentiment strongly favored increased safety standards and humane working conditions, and workers flocked to strengthening unions. Progress was made, much due to that terrible March day.

{Must see: Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Website}

Shirtwaists, PBS

From the Cornell exhibit:

This incident has had great significance to this day because it highlights the inhumane working conditions to which industrial workers can be subjected. To many, its horrors epitomize the extremes of industrialism. 
The tragedy still dwells in the collective memory of the nation and of the international labor movement. The victims of the tragedy are still celebrated as martyrs at the hands of industrial greed.
Period editorial cartoon

On March 25 I always sorrowfully remember the young workers. I strongly believe that a century later we should not be debating the importance of organized labor.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It was 14 years ago today...

...that I launched my business denisebrain.

Although it was coincidental, I have always thought it appropriate that Earth Day is the day I celebrate my business’s anniversary. After all, vintage clothing is recycling; some of the most beautiful and worthy reusables I’ve ever seen are finely made clothing and accessories from the past.

Recycling is just one of the many reasons to love vintage clothing, but it’s a great one.

This year I want to let you know that in honor of Earth Day I have started using recycled acid-free tissue paper to wrap your purchases. I am also pleased to say that my website is hosted by MacHighway, powered by wind energy.

Are you wearing recycled clothing? Today would be a great day for it.

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thank you!

Because I have wonderful customers, today I was able to send a $525 donation benefitting the emergency rescue fund of Save the Manatee Club.

The gentle and wonderful manatee needs us. Anything I can do to raise awareness and/or funds for the manatee is so important to me. Thank you for your help!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Update on sales benefitting manatees

We (my customers and I) have reached 74% on the way to making $500 to contribute to the Save the Manatee Club by April 15. Yesterday I received a wonderful note from a customer who also loves manatees: 

I just wanted to say that the Save the Manatee Club has been one of my favourite charities for many years. Even though I live in Canada (and have 6 to 7 months of grey and often cold weather), I've been fortunate to visit Florida a few times, and have seen Manatees in the wild, swimming and resting and rolling around in the rivers and marinas around Fort Myers and Sanibel areas. They are beautiful, gentle creatures that need so much more care and attention than ‘we’ as a society do for them. I love animals and nature very very much. Please keep up the great work in getting the word out.

By my best estimate, there is a possibility of exceeding the $500 goal, and I would definitely not stop before April 15. 30% of your purchase price from my web store and my Etsy shop will go to this cause. Let’s see how much difference we can make for manatees! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

If there was ever a time to help the manatee, this is it

Not that manatees have it easy ever, but this year so far, 10% of the total estimated population of the endangered West Indian (Florida) Manatee has perished due to combined factors which are more serious than usual.

Wired Science’s Manatees Dying in Droves on Both Coasts of Florida is a sobering assessment of manatees under siege this year.

A couple of blog posts ago (Emergency help for the manatee) I described my goal to raise funds for the rescue and care of sick and injured manatees. These wonderful animals need us very much.

With the help of my customers, I have reached 51% of my goal to contribute $500 to the emergency rescue fund of Save the Manatee Club by April 15. 30% of any purchase from my Etsy shop or web store will go to this necessary cause.

I encourage you to donate directly to the Save the Manatee Club here if nothing in my shops is calling to you. I’m so glad that others have done just that (I am alerted when someone donates and mentions me so I know about these good Samaritans).

Save the Manatee Club image

Monday, April 1, 2013

Parlez-vous vintage?

I have never been to my favorite city in the world. You might ask how it could possibly be my favorite city if I've never seen it first-hand, and the answer is that I love the idea of Paris.

For me, Paris is art, true beauty, romance, history, an appreciation of fine things, slight melancholy, a balance of social and singular rights and privileges, haunting architecture, charming neighborhoods, the correct perspectives on leisure and cuisine, raising children well, triumphal open spaces, fascinating people, creative city planning, invention, nostalgia and modernism, the center of fashion.

Ah, fashion. When I picture Paris, I must admit I see storybook scenes, and favorite vintage movies. Dresses are twirling, impossibly beautiful people are sipping strong black coffee, hats and eyebrows are cocked just so, a child holds a red balloon, a woman’s dress competes in beauty with an open flower stall.

Mes chers amies fran├žaises, please forgive me for generalizing. My April theme is merely un hommage to my favorite place.

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