Bunny Kuiken was born in the Botto House, Haledon, NJ (now the home of the American Labor Museum - Botto House National Landmark) a streetcar suburb right next to Paterson—in 1929. Sixteen years before she was born, her maternal grandparents, Pietro and Maria Botto, opened their large house to the leaders of the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike. Strike leaders such as Upton Sinclair, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and "Big Bill" Haywood met at the house and even addressed crowds from the balcony. Although Bunny lived in the Botto House with three generations of her family, including her grandfather Pietro Botto, her relatives never mentioned the strike to her. The failed strike changes the lives of the Botto family —her grandfather was blacklisted from ever working in Paterson again, her aunt had to change her name to "Botta" to get a job, and her grandmother, who was ill during the strike, died prematurely in 1915.
When Bunny began researching the history of the strike as an adult, some members of the Haledon community still referred to her house as "a communist place." Bunny has spent much of her life researching the 1913 strike and working to preserve her family's home. In 1982, thanks to her efforts, the Botto House was declared a National Historic Landmark. It now houses the American Labor Museum, which tells the story of the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike. Bunny worked for the museum as an educator and lives in Haledon to this day.
Hear Bunny Kuiken's recollections about her family's involvement in the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike and the effects of the strike on her family here!
Last updated: June 5, 2019