Minnie, Tillie, and Dora Gottlieb, ages 19, 21, and 29, were among twenty-six women killed in a sweatshop fire at the Wolf Muslin Undergarment Company on High Street in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1910. Forty other women were injured in the fire, as were three firemen. A number of the women who died jumping from the building were impaled on a metal fence; others burned to death. The gruesome event made national news, and more than 100,000 people flocked to the scene the next day, but the coroner’s jury a month later found the fire to be the result of “misadventure and accident,” with no one to blame. The building, which dated back to the Civil War, was not fireproofed, yet neither the factory owner (who was described as a “grand boss” by one of his workers and was granted use of the label of the National Consumers’ League because of the above-average working conditions of his factory) nor the building’s owner, Nathanael Glass of New York (who had obeyed the state’s inadequate safety provisions) were held legally responsible. The Gottlieb sisters were buried under a single gravestone. Four months later, the Triangle Factory fire in New York would take 146 lives and prompt major reforms in labor law. To read a substantial article about the fire, click here.
“Safety exits were inadequate, and workers were instructed not to summon firefighters stationed across the street, lest they alert their employer’s insurance company.” —New Jersey Jewish News