Picking up the Pieces–Reflections on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

 

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Women are often the ones left to pick up the pieces when things fall apart in our families or in society.  We often feel the isolation of our role –as wife, mother, teacher, or caregiver.  In addition to being an artist, I have fulfilled all of these roles at various times in my life.   Currently I am a teacher of young children in a public elementary school.  I work part-time so I can also care for my family and devote some quality time to my studio art practice.   I belong to my local, state, and national teacher’s union and have become active in a national teacher’s group calling itself the Badass Teacher’s Association.  For some time now, I have  felt the strain of the attacks on worker rights.  These attacks try to demonize unions as being the cause of problems in our society including education.  As a case in point, a recent Time Magazine cover reinforced the notion that “bad teachers” and our unions are the real problem with our public schools.

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Rather than try to summarize, here is what FAIR (Center for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) had to say in response to the Time Magazine article.  http://fair.org/blog/2014/10/24/the-big-problem-with-times-teacher-bashing-cover-story/

This is why I am turning my attention to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.  How can an event that occurred in 1911 in New York City still be relevant to us today?  How can I address my feelings about labor history and women’s rights through visual means?   I am asking myself these and other hard questions as I embark on another year in the studio.  In the Triangle fire, 146 workers lives were lost.  Most of them were young immigrant women as young as seventeen years of age.  If I accomplish my goals, my work will help viewers see that we are connected, past and present.  We are on a journey together.  It is only through our collective insight and action that we have any hopes of making this world a more just and peaceful place.

I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections.  Feel free to comment.

Collaboratively yours,

Robin Brooks, January 5, 2015

Who Sews the Buttons?, mixed media on paper, 18" x 24", 2013

Who Sews the Buttons?, mixed media on paper, 18″ x 24″, 2013

 

PS: To learn more about the history, visit the website  http://rememberthetrianglefire.org/

In addition, you can view a recent public broadcasting special which shines a contemporary light on this national tragedy, reminding us that what is past is still present.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/triangle/

 

2 Responses to “Picking up the Pieces–Reflections on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire”

  1. Julie Brooks says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Robin. The sad thing is that history repeated itself not long ago when nearly 300 people died in a fire in a clothing factory in Karachi, Pakistan. It makes me wonder if humanity can ever learn from previous mistakes. A sad thought indeed…I love your ‘Who Sews the Buttons’ work – it is really wonderful!

  2. Ann Maloney says:

    Enjoy your writings and art work. I admire your being committed to the unions. Maine is not a friendly state to unions. Very much like “who sews the buttons” & many of your collage & watercolors.

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