Posted by: Green Knight | March 3, 2012

Women’s History Month

From Boudicca to Mother Jones to Dr. Alice B. Hamilton to Crystal Lee Sutton (“Norma Rae”) to Lois Gibbs (Love Canal) to Marilyn Leistner (Times Beach) to Gayla Benefield (Libby, Montana), women have played a key part in getting a fair shake for workers or just people living with contamination or unsafe working conditions. [just don’t mention Carry Nation around MY house!] I wrote about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire last year, on the 100th anniversary, but I didn’t know about the courageous role played by Fannie Lansner. I quote my friend and gracious web radio hostess Diane Tegarden, from her blog, Rosefirewalker’s TeaGarden (also here on WordPress), as follows:

On March 25, 1911, 146 N.Y. garment workers died in what became known as the “Triangle Fire” — an event that led to changes in everything from building codes to workplace rules to American politics. Fannie Lansner was a forewoman in a relatively new, “fireproof” 10-story high rise — with Triangle using the top three floors — that was packed with sewing machines and support staff. In hindsight, though, safety concerns had not caught up with growing business needs. Sprinklers were not installed. The factory started two stories above the six-story height of fire ladders. To maximize production, there was little room left on the factory floor for quick exits. Stairways were too narrow to hold an outflow of workers. Exit doors opened in — against building codes — creating another hurdle to those fleeing catastrophe.

Late that fateful afternoon, just about quitting time, fire broke out. Investigators believe it started with a loose cigarette butt. Triangle Waist’s eighth-floor factory space was quickly engulfed — as flammable cloth and sewing patterns fueled the blaze. No fire alarm was sounded. The ninth floor workplace — where Fannie Lansner toiled — learned of the fire only when smoke and flames arrived. According to media reports and government investigators, Lansner kept her oversight role amid what has been described as wild chaos. She calmly herded several carloads of workers into a working elevator, refusing to take the trip to safety. She perished after that elevator became disabled – because too many workers had jumped into the elevator shaft to avoid the inferno.

Thanks, Diane, for the human element of the story! RIP, Fannie.



  1. Thank you for the mention Bob! As you know, I’ll be posting one new blog every day this month in commemoration of women from all walks of life, most who aren’t well known. They are all doing or have done fantastic work for the human race; from poets to inventors, from athletes to business women.

    Come join the fun at: and subscribe to be sure you don’t miss a single day!! ;>

  2. Dear Bob:

    Thanks for the mention of my Great-Aunt Fannie. The struggle for decent working conditions for Americans and people everywhere continues, and as you say, many women are at the forefront. You can read a bit more about Fannie and the fire here:

    • Wow, Tom, thanks for the comment! I’m glad she’s survived by people who also give a damn.

  3. FYI, my original post can be found here:

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