Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Inspires Elizabeth Warren Speech

GREENWICH VILLAGE, NY — Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren drew thousands to Washington Square Park Monday evening — citing in her campaign speech the neighborhood’s history for better workers’ safety regulations as a touchpoint for her own plan for structural change as president.

Just hours after the Working Families Party endorsed her 2020 campaign, Sen. Warren, of Massachusetts, spoke at length about the 146 women, mostly immigrants, who died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 near the square from a lack of safety features and locked doors, leading to workers’ safety rights.

“We’re not here because of famous arches or famous men. In fact, we’re not here because of men at all,” Warren said. “We’re here because of some hard-working women.”

The 1911 fire “was one of the worst industrial disasters in American history,” Warren said.

In her speech, she further detailed her plan to tackle corruption in Washington D.C. — from rewriting the ethics codes for judges and “ending lobbying as we know it,” she said.

“I know this change is possible and I know it because America has made big structural change before,” she said, referencing Frances Perkins, who became the first woman to serve as a cabinet secretary as the secretary of labor after she watched in horror as women jumped to their deaths from the factory engulfed in flames.

She tied together the country’s most pressing issues — climate change, gun safety, and health care — and cited corruption as the stalemate that has “paralyzed” U.S. democracy.

“On the face of it, these three are totally different issues. But despite our being the strongest and wealthiest country in the history of the world, our democracy is paralyzed. And why? Because giant corporations have bought off our government,” she said, calling President Donald Trump “corruption in the flesh.”

Her speech drew some 20,000 people to the park, according to her campaign. Among Warren’s other plans include a 2 percent wealth tax on those making more than $50 million and canceling student loan debt.

Warren is a former Harvard professor who has been a senator in Massachusetts since 2013. She was among three women on the stage for the most recent debate for the Democratic presidential primary last week, along with Sens. Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar.