Remember The Triangle Fire Coalition

Triangle Fire Open Archive


Reiss Family Portrait

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Contributed by : Ilana Weltman

Object # 75


A course at NYU taught by Hasia Diner introduced me to the history of Eastern European “daughters of the shtetl” who travelled alone to work in New York’s garment industry. This history came alive when my grandmother showed me this family photo including her aunt Rebecca Reiss, a dressmaker. I feel an affinity for the young women who perished in the Triangle fire. They worked so hard in the garment industry, as did my great grand aunt Rebecca.

Courtesy of : The Kheel Center

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The Reiss family immigrated to the United States in 1899 from Jaroslav, Poland. The woman on the left, Rebecca Reiss (later on Rebecca Mont), was the first member of the family to be sent to the United States because of her expertise in dressmaking. Rebecca worked for a dress designer in New York City. Once the rest of the family made the journey, they lived in a Lower East Side tenement home on Henry Street. Joseph Reiss, second on the left with the bow tie, worked in the sweatshops and attended night school. Rebecca’s little brother in the middle, Lionel Reiss, grew up to become an established artist. Many Lower East Side immigrant families took such family portraits, as it was a symbol of pride in their new life in America. Joseph’s daughter, Helen Weltman remembers that her father never spoke about the “old country” or life on the Lower East Side.

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