The American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark, also known as “Labor’s Schoolhouse”, has been a beacon on labor and immigrant studies since it opened in 1982. This year, to commemorate its 40th anniversary, free copies of the book The Paterson Silk Strike of 1913: The Children’s Story are distributed to public school fourth-grade classrooms, school libraries, and public libraries statewide.
“This precious gift will inspire students as they learn about the courage, activism and contributions of workers and immigrants,” says Angelica Santomauro, Ed.D., NJEA/NJREA member and executive director of the museum. “It will also enhance the teaching of New Jersey history for fourth-grade teachers, with the inclusion of such an integral event that took place in their own state.”
In 2019, the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC), a division of the State Department, awarded the museum a grant that allowed Santomauro and the museum’s director of education, Evelyn Hershey, to collaborate with the museum. SUNY Farmingdale artist Thomas Germano, publisher Mark Torres, and historian Steve Golin, Ph.D. Together wrote the story of the Silk Strike through the eyes of four children.
On beautifully illustrated and detailed pages, the story unfolds in a way that allows the reader to compare and contrast the perspectives of two young brothers who needed to work in the silk mills to help their family financially, as well as of a brother and sister who had the privilege of attending a public school, without any financial responsibility. Although the children’s characters are fictional, the actual story and illustrations are based on facts and images from the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike.
The NJHC received a second project grant to the museum, which provided funding to print 30,000 copies of the book for distribution throughout the state of New Jersey.
“We will release these books, even if we have to deliver them ourselves,” jokes Santomauro. “We hope, however, that NJEA members will visit the museum, see the incredible display of oil and watercolor paintings, book illustrations, and pick up enough books for their school district.”
Since postage is not part of the grant, on January 19 the museum organized the distribution of books containing the original paintings illustrating the book, in the presence of Germano. Santomauro and Hershey discussed the book and accompanying teaching materials. NJEA members and librarians from across the state attended to pick up books or arrange for delivery.
To learn more about the American Labor Museum, please visit labormuseum.net. To volunteer for your community, city, district, or school to pick up and distribute free books, please contact the American Labor Museum at (973) 595-7953 or [email protected].