« Return to TeachersFirst Main Site

Dates That Matter

June 3, 1900

The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union is founded.

 Why does it matter?

The ILGWU, or the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union was first formed in New York City out of several smaller, local groups working in the garment, or clothing-making, industry. The ILGWU was the first trade union in which women were the majority of membership. In 1909, the union led a two-week walk-out of 20,000 garment workers in New York city, which eventually led to higher wages and limited health care coverage, and focused attention on the "sweatshop" conditions endured by the workers, most of whom were immigrant women.

Those conditions were further exposed by the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 which killed nearly 150 workers, most of whom could not escape the flames because some of the exit doors were locked to prevent unauthorized rest breaks. Following the fire, the ILGWU helped create some of the modern safety rules today's workers take for granted. At its peak, the ILGWU had over 450,000 members.

For more information...

ILGWU
An outline of the history of the ILGWU from its founding to the present. There are good photographs, and an audio file of the famous "Look for the Union Label" jingle that is associated with the ILGWU.

Triangle Factory Fire
Compete coverage of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire with good contextual information about the garment industry in New York City at the turn of the century. There are some fairly graphic photographs of fire victims.