Elizabeth Warren cites Triangle Shirtwaist fire in Washington Square speech

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Thousands of people packed Washington Square Park Monday evening to listen to presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speak under its iconic arch about how ending political corruption would be central to her presidency.

Before speaking, Senator Warren was introduced by Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party. On Monday, the party announced its endorsement of Warren over Bernie Sanders, who the organization supported in the 2016 presidential election.

Warren began her speech with a New York-specific example of the devastating impact of corruption, by speaking about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. The topic was particularly relevant given the speech’s location: The fire that killed 146 garment workers occurred on Washington Place just a half-block east of the park. Most of those who perished were poor immigrant women.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren spoke about corruption — a central topic in her campaign — in front of a crowd of thousands at Washington Square Park. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

“For years, across the city, women factory workers and their allies had been sounding alarms about dangerous and squalid conditions, fighting for shorter hours and higher pay,” Warren said. “Everyone knew about these problems, but the fat profits were making New York’s factory owners rich and they had no plans to give that up.”

Warren added that those businesses owners used their political clout to block improvements for working conditions.

“Business owners got richer, politicians became more powerful and the working people paid the price,” she said. “Does any of this sound familiar?”

The crowd of “Warren” blue-sign-waving supporters erupted in shouts in cheers.

The candidate then urged supporters not to be afraid to join efforts at big structural change in order to create a government free from corruption.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren appealed to women voters in her speech about ending political corruption by telling the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire and of how, after the tragedy, female workers and U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins worked to reform the state’s labor laws. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)