Department or Program



In the early twentieth century, Eastern European Jewish women involved themselves in New York City’s garment industry, both as employees and labor activists. While their efforts created considerable change, some factories refused to bend to their demands. One such shop, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, had a devastating fire in 1911 that led to the deaths of over one hundred of these young Jewish women. New York City’s palpable sorrow at the lives lost exemplified the humanity of these women— that they were not just laborers, but daughters, sisters, and friends. In this thesis, I analyze how Jewish American women’s religion, culture, and values informed their experiences in the garment industry, finding that life at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was inextricably tied to the Jewish community of which its employees were a part. I then discuss the impact of community on labor activism during the Shirtwaist Strike of 1909, ascertaining that community was a powerful tool in advocacy, but also rife with divisions. The third chapter then takes these understandings of activism and social dynamics and applies them to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, finding that while camaraderie among workers was essential to labor activism, it was not powerful enough on its own to reform working conditions throughout the entirety of New York’s garment industry.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Shaw, Caroline

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.