Reporting on the inquiry into of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, that killed 146 garment workers, 123 of them women, The New York Times noted the assistance of students from Radcliffe and Vassar as "field inspectors" for the New York State Factory Investigating Commission. "Often," said The Times, "Vassar and Radcliffe Colleg girls volunteered for the work of inspection, and one Vassar girl turned in a report to the effect that when she asked a girl in a factory what kind of fire protection she enjoyed, the girl answered that she didn't know and didn't care, since the finest thing that could happen to her, she thought, was for some conflagration to come along and end her miserable work-a-day existence."

Between 1912 and 1914 13 of the 17 bills based on the commission's recommendations and submitted to the State Legislature became law, making New York State a leader in worker health and safety.