I am a descendant of Jewish immigrant garment workers employed in NYC factories during the time of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911, when 146 garment workers were killed due to the garment industry’s grossly inadequate safety and human rights standards. In 2013, Rana Plaza, a building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that housed 5 garment factories, collapsed, killing over 1,000 garment workers for the same reason. I felt a personal tie to both garment industry “accidents,” which prompted me to explore connections between these two tragedies.
The Price of Our Clothes is the working title of my growing collection of poems about the garment industry seen through the lens of the Rana Plaza collapse and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. These poems attempt to reach across time and cultures to honor and invite empathy with the people who make our clothes and encourage a future that respects their rights. Some of the poems are listed under Related Work at the bottom of this page.
In the Rain Taxi Review of Books, Brian Good wrote about a chapbook version of The Price of Our Clothes, which contains 17 poems from my collection,
…Morse brilliantly crafts poems as a painful reminder of our complicity, so quickly forgotten, when one click can summon to your front door new jeans made in deadly factories thousands of miles from sight… The Price of Our Clothes displays astounding depth in the scant space of a chapbook, with poems — like the garment workers past and present they detail — that yearn for more than our pity and forgetfulness.
The Price of Our Clothes is also the title of my multi-media collaboration with visual artist Rachel Breen.
The Price of Our Clothes Exhibition
a Collaboration with Visual Artist Rachel Breen
Watch a 2 minute video of THE PRICE OF OUR CLOTHES.
The Price of Our Clothes exhibition is a material meditation on garment factory disasters. Responding to the collapse of garment factories at Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh, 2013, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, 1911, the exhibit presents evocative mixed-media artwork, powerful sound pieces, poems, and performances, to encourage contemplation about our historic and present day relationship with the people who make the clothes we wear.
In 2015, we travelled to Bangladesh to research the project and write a blog chronicling our experiences and reflections. Our trip was supported with funds from Rimon: The Jewish Arts Council.
READ THE BLOG HERE.
Scroll to the bottom of the blog to begin.
In 2018 we exhibited “The Price of Our Clothes” at the Perlman Teaching Museum’s Braucher Gallery on the Carleton College campus in Northfield, Minnesota,
and a variation on the exhibit, “Sewing Voices: The Labor We Wear,” at the Tychman-Shapiro Gallery in Minneapolis. The Brin Jewish Arts Endowment supported our work.
Read Sheila Regan’s article about the exhibit,
“Haunting Artistic Tribute to Workers Killed in Bangladesh and the US,”
in Hyperallergic magazine.
Read Molly Priesmeyer’s interview with us after our trip,
“What Are Your Clothes Worth?”
in the StarTribune.
Interview with Mili Khatun
garment worker and Rana Plaza survivor.