Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which was observed in many countries around the world. When I went to the store to buy snacks with the kids after school, the owner of the store gave each of the women a white rose to celebrate. My 10-year-old, Norah, told me that she had learned about International Women’s Day in school, and that it started when there was a big fire in New York City and a lot of women working in the building died.
I immediately realized that Norah was talking about the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, but I had no idea that there was a connection between that tragedy and International Women’s Day. Although International Women’s Day was first celebrated before the fire on March 19, 1911, the tragedy that occurred on March 25th – less than a week later – brought increased attention to working conditions and became the focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events.
It has been quite a few years since I faced discrimination because of my gender – if any of you have a problem with learning about codes from a woman, you’ve kept it quiet (good idea). But it has not always been that way. In 2011 I spoke about my early experiences in the industry at the New England Chapter of DHI “historical review” meeting (you can read about it here). Although I have always worked for great companies where I was appreciated and treated fairly, there were some challenges along the way.
These days, I rarely think about being a woman in an industry that still has waaaaay more men than women. While there are more women in our industry now than there were in the 1980’s, we are still very much in the minority. I have met such amazing women working for distributors, manufacturers, end users, architects, security integrators, and some female AHJs, and I’m proud to be a member of this tribe. I’m even encouraging my brilliant teenage daughter to consider following in my footsteps.
With that said, there are still millions of women who face inequality in the workplace on a daily basis. And while working conditions and life safety have been improved immeasurably since the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, there are still men and women working in unsafe conditions around the world. In honor of International Women’s Day, please take a moment to remember this tragedy and pledge to do your part to uphold the code requirements that keep us safe.
If you’re not familiar with the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, here’s a short video from America – The Story of US on the History Channel:
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I had never heard that connection before.
It seems there is a lot of US history that is not taught.
Interesting Lori. We were in Russia back in 2000 and I can tell you that it is a very important holiday there. One website reports (https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/russia/women-day: “Russian women first observed International Women’s Day on March 2, 1913. They held a demonstration in St Petersburg, which was then Russia’s capital, demanding the right to vote. On March 8, 1917 (February 23, 1917 of the then used Julian calendar), women organized another mass demonstration. Many historians believe this became the start of the Russian Revolution. The Russian Emperor Nicholas II stepped down from the throne four days after the demonstration, and the provisional government granted Russian women the right to vote. International Women’s Day has been a national holiday in Russia since 1918. It became a non-labor day in 1965. International Women’s Day remained a public holiday in the Russia after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.”
I think it’s interesting how different countries all find the roots of the holiday in their own historically significant events…
Thanks for sharing that information! To tell you the truth, this holiday has never been on my radar before!
As of next Monday I will be (as far as I know of) the first openly transgender woman to work in the door and hardware industry. It’s very intimidating for me, coming out into such a conservative and male-dominated industry, especially as a new member (still working on my DHT and CDT). But it’s because of you, Lori, and the other women who have stood up to discrimination in the workplace and persevered, that I feel confident enough to take this step.
Hi Laura –
I am proud and touched to have played a role in your decision to share this with me and the readers of iDigHardware, as well as your coworkers and customers, friends and family. I can imagine that it would be intimidating to take this step in such a conservative industry, but I fervently hope that you will be surrounded by a supportive community and that you will be successful in achieving your certifications and continuing your education and experience in this business. Best of luck to you!!
As usual, GREAT piece. History is so fascinating when you being to connect the dots isn’t it?
Kudos to all the women in our industry – I take great pride in being one of only two “native” (Coloradans are distinguished by being “native” or “import”…..) females AHC’s in Colorado – so far as I know anyway.
The first being Debbie Stewart who just recently retired from Allegion (02/28/17) – shout out to Debbie and the other wonderful women who forged a path for us in the D/F/H industry.
It’s sad that such necessary laws and design innovations often become essential only AFTER tragedies like this. These companies saw the opportunity for more profits and didn’t consider what could result from their greater efficiency until AFTER the consequences were paid by innocent hard-working young women.
Thank you for sharing this connection to a tragic historical event. It serves as a sober reminder that there are valid reasons for the many code regulations. Codes may seem inconvenient or costly until they are balanced against something as valuable as human life.
Me thinks you may want to make this article/video available every year on Int’l Woman’s Day.
It is a very moving piece.