A century ago, 146 workers – mostly immigrant women – died as flames engulfed the floors where they worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory in New York City. The ensuing public outcry against unsafe work conditions was covered in detail in the pages of the Jewish Daily Forward by poet Morris Rosenfeld.
Rosenfeld’s portrayal of the brutal effects of employee exploitation led to a trial of the factory’s owners, a greater push to unionize the garment trade and the establishment of new labor laws designed to protect workers.
But did these events eradicate sweatshops?
Lead to equality of opportunity for women?
Change attitudes toward immigrants?
End exploitation of the poor?
The Forward is accepting original, unpublished English and Yiddish poems that address these questions or reflect upon the tragic fire’s meaning and legacy. A distinguished panel of judges will select a winning poem in each language to receive a $500 cash prize and to be published in the Forward.
There is a $15 entry fee for this contest (with the puzzling exception in the cases of entrants “who are legal residents of Colorado, Maryland, North Dakoa, and Vermont”). Submission deadline is 5 p.m. EST on February 14, 2011. More information and the complete rules can be found at The Forward’s contest website.