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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Norman Rockwell Museum Features Exhibit on Rose O'Neill, Artist & Suffragette


The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge MA has a new exhibit titled, Rose O'Neill: Artist & Suffragette, on display through September, 2020.

The exhibit is timely since 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of American women formally given the right to vote, a cause to which O'Neill was devoted.

Born in Wilkes Barre, PA, Rose O'Neill (1874-1944) and her family moved to Nebraska when she was young, and grew up in an artistic household where creative expression was encouraged and prized.  A self-taught illustrator, O'Neill moved to New York City at age 19 and soon her work was being published in leading magazines such as Harper's, Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, as well as Puck Magazine. 

In 1909 O'Neill created the popular characters the Kewpies dolls, elf-like figures that were immediately popular with the general public.  The merchandising of Kewpie dolls made O'Neill a millionaire, according to the exhibition notes.


O'Neill became heavily involved in the women's suffrage movement in 1915, and for the next five years gave speeches, illustrated posters and marched in parades, as the momentum built to give women the right to vote.

After passing through U.S. Congress on June 4, 1919, and receiving the necessary three-fourths approval of the states on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was officially ratified by the U.S. Secretary of State on August 26, 1920. 

The Amendment states:  "The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

The Norman Rockwell Museum contains the world's largest collection of illustrations, paintings and art by Norman Rockwell, one of America's beloved artists whose iconic work captured the spirit of the United States in the 20th century.  He lived in Stockbridge for the last 25 years of his life.

Read about Massachusetts Irish-American women, and visit IrishMassachusetts.com for more about the Irish-American cultural community.






Thursday, July 23, 2020

Irish Piper Seamus Ennis Featured at Newport Folk Festival in July 1964


Seamus Ennis, one of Ireland's most inspirational traditional Irish musicians, performed at the 5th Annual Newport Folk Festival  on July 23-26, 1964.  He was 45 years old.

Ennis was a featured artist on opening night on Thursday, July 23, where he performed the uilleann pipes, told stories and sang Irish songs as part of a traditional folk program.  He was joined by Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy Waters, Doc Watson, the Nova Scotia Singers and the Stanley Brothers.

Then on Saturday night, Ennis joined the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys, Judy Collins, Peter Paul and Mary and the Osborne Brothers on the main concert stage.

Other performers during the weekend included Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, the Jug band, the Staple Singers and the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

Founded in 1959 by jazz pianist and music impresario George Wein, the Newport Folk Festival has become the world's premier festival devoted to folk and traditional music from hundreds of traditions around the world.  This year's Newport Folk Festival is cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a Newport Folk Revival concert is being streamed on July 31- August 3, 2020.

Find out more about Seamus Ennis by visiting the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul, Fingal, County Dublin, Ireland.



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Cambridge Irish Famine Memorial Unveiled By Ireland's President on July 23, 1997


On Wednesday, July 23, 1997, Ireland's President Mary Robinson officially helped dedicate the Cambridge Irish Famine Memorial in Cambridge Common, a tribute to the 150th anniversary of Ireland's Great Hunger, known as An Gorta Mor.

Nearly 4,000+ people attended the ceremony in the iconic Cambridge Common near Harvard Square, which also includes the Cambridge Civil War Monument designed by Irish immigrant Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1870.

The Cambridge Irish Famine Memorial was created by Maurice Harron of Derry, Northern Ireland, who said the sculpture "is meant to convey the tragedy, two people dying, two people escaping, the fearful guilt of leaving loved ones behind, and the will to carry on."

At the dedication ceremony, President Robinson said, "Part of Looking back and remembering was to link the Irish famine with modern famine and hunger and inequalities in our world.  It reinforced a very strong commitment of the Irish people to developing countries."

The Cambridge Irish Famine Memorial was the idea of John Flaherty, an immigrant from Galway who is active in the greater Boston Irish-American community.   It was funded by local businessman John O'Connor and supported by the city's diverse community of politicians, activists, neighborhood residents and historians, including the Cambridge Historical Society.

Find out more about Irish history in greater Boston by visiting IrishHeritageTrail.com.

For details on visiting Cambridge, Massachusetts, go to CambridgeUSA.org.


to visit by public transit:
Cambridge Irish Famine Memorial
Cambridge Common
Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
MBTA: Red Line to Harvard Square


Monday, July 20, 2020

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy born on July 22, 1890 in Boston's North End


Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, mother of President John F. Kennedy, was born on July 22, 1890 at 4 Garden Court in Boston's North End, at a time when the neighborhood was heavily Irish.

Her father, John "Honey" Fitzgerald, was a prominent businessman and newspaper publisher of The Republic and her mother was Mary Josephine Hannon.

When Rose married Joseph P. Kennedy of East Boston on October 7, 1914, it marked the merger of Boston's two most influential Irish political families. The newlyweds bought their first house at 83 Beals Street in Brookline, where they raised four boys and five girls.  The JFK Home in Brookline is managed by the National Park Service and is open to the public.

Their second eldest son, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, became the first Catholic President of the United States in 1960.  Sons Robert and Edward were senators and played key roles in the Kennedy Administration, with Robert serving as the US Attorney General. Their daughters, Jean Kennedy Smith, was U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, and played a role in the peace process between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which resulted in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, while Eunice Kennedy Shriver was the originator of the Special Olympics.  

Through her life, Rose Kennedy captured the American public's imagination because of the suffering she endured and the grace she displayed during the untimely deaths of several of her children.

She was extremely religious and was a daily communicant at St. Joseph's Church in Hyannis.  In 1951 Pope Pius XII named her a Papal Countess, in recognition of her "exemplary motherhood and charitable works."  In 1996, Irish novelist and playwright Mary Manning Adams wrote a play about Rose Kennedy's life entitled "Go Lovely Rose."

Rose died in 1995 at age 105.  Her funeral mass was held at St. Stephen's Church in the North End, where she was baptized and attended mass as a young girl.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Garden, built in 1987, is the first stop on Boston's Irish Heritage Trail.

The small enclosed rose garden, encircled by an iron wrought fence, with a granite fountain as the centerpiece. It is part of Christopher Columbus Park, which runs along the waterfront and looks out onto Boston Harbor. The Garden was officially dedicated on July 22, 1987 by Rose’s family, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who called his mother “the greatest teacher and most wonderful mother that any child could ever have.”


Today, the Rose Kennedy Garden has 104 rose bushes, one for every year of Rose’s life.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway opened in 2008.  The 27 acre swath of Greenway once lay beneath the unsightly and noisy Central Artery, a four lane, mile and a half highway built in the 1950s.  When the highway finally came down, the greenway began to take shape, connecting the city’s waterfront to the rest of downtown. 


Today, the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway is one of the city’s most popular public spaces, drawing office workers, tourists, students, conventioneers and local residents to enjoy its sweeping vistas and friendly amenities.  With a magnificent Carousel, public art, water fountains, concerts, food courts, Wi-Fi access and well-tended gardens, the Greenway serves its mission of being an urban oasis that is free and open to all. 

Read more about the Kennedy family's Irish connections


Thursday, July 16, 2020

July 1750, Irish Servant Girl Escapes from her 'Master' in Salem, Massachusetts


In the 18th century, many of the original Irish in New England were indentured servants who gained passage to America by agreeing to work in servitude for up to seven years.  But after they arrived here, many of them were dissatisfied with their harsh working conditions and poor treatment.  So they absconded from their 'masters' and escaped into the colonies.

In the first half of the 18th century, newspapers such as the Boston Gazette, Boston News-Letter and New England Weekly Journal regularly ran advertisements seeking the return of these runaway servants.

Very often the servants were captured and returned to their masters, as in the case of Edmund Murphy, who ran away from the home of Thomas Craddock in Milton in November 1737.  He was captured and returned to the Craddock household, only to escape again in March 1738.   Murphy's companion in the second escape was Edmond Butler, who was described in the advertisement as "a good scholar who speaks English, Latin, Greek and French, a thin-looking fellow of middle stature."


In 1738, Irish servants Michael Dullowin and Patrick Shangasseys ran away from gingerbread baker Thomas Pearson.  They were joined on the run by fugitive slave George Tilley, American Indian Jo Daniels and Scottish servant William Cobb.

Often when they were captured, the servants were imprisoned at the Bridewell Prison near Beacon Hill.  In 1739, nine prisoners escaped from the Bridwell.  Five of them were Irish servants, led by 25 year old Thomas Dwyer, and the group also included a one-armed Native American named John Baker, a 20 year old Negro slave named Jocco, a woman and an Englishman.  Each of them had a three pound bounty on their heads.

Numerous runaways were women, such as 24 year old Molly Birk, who had a five pound reward on her head for her capture and return.

Read more about Irish and Irish-American women in New England at IrishBoston.org.

For more about Boston's illustrious Irish history from the 17th century to today, read Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past, published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Boston's First Irish Mayor, Hugh O'Brien, Born on July 13, 1827 in County Cork


Hugh O'Brien, Boston's first Irish-born mayor, was born in County Cork, Ireland on July 13, 1827.  He  emigrated with his family to Boston in 1832 when he was five years old.  

O’Brien attended a public school in Boston’s Fort Hill neighborhood, and at age 12 joined the Boston Courier newspaper as an apprentice.  By the age of 15 he had become foreman of a printing office, before starting his own publication, the Shipping and Commercial List.  He had a successful career as a businessman and gained the respect of city leaders as well as the Irish immigrant community that struggled to gain a foothold in Boston.

O'Brien launched his political career in 1875 on the Board of Alderman, and in 1884 ran against and defeated incumbent Boston Mayor Augustus Martin.  On Monday, January 5, 1885, O'Brien was sworn-in as the city of Boston's first Irish-born Mayor.  At that time, the term of office was one year, so O'Brien ran and won again in 1885, 1886, 1887 and 1888 before narrowly losing in December 1888 to Republican banker Thomas N. Hart. 


When he won the election in December 1884, The Boston Globe reported that O'Brien was hailed by Irish and non-Irish alike.  One man interviewed said, "See here boys.  The fact that he's Irish made but little difference.  It is the first time for a long while when the race issue has been kept in the background.  People are beginning to know that we are all American citizens, and that the best claim to popular favor is a good, clean record."


The Globe continued, "All over the city the Irish felt a natural pride that one of their countrymen should stand so high in the esteem of the people."


Read more about O'Brien's historic inauguration on January 5, 1885 at MassMoments.

While in office, O'Brien presided over the creation of the city's Emerald Necklace park system, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and he laid the cornerstone for the new Boston Public Library at Copley Square.  
In 1887, the Hugh O'Brien Schoolhouse was opened at the corner of Dudley and Langdon Streets in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, one of the city's most Irish neighborhoods at the time.

During O’Brien’s time in office, the Boston Massacre Memorial was unveiled on Boston Common in November 1888.  Mayor O'Brien said, " I am aware that the monument to Crispus Attucks and his martyr associates has been the subject of more or less adverse criticism, and that by some they are looked upon as rioters, who deserved their fate.  I look upon it from a entirely different standpoint.  The Boston massacre was one of the most important and exciting events that preceded our revolution."

One of O’Brien’s most cherished causes was helping the city's orphans throughout his life.  He died on August 1, 1895, and at his funeral at Holy Cross Cathedral, the Republic Newspaper reported, "The largest and most conspicuous delegation was that from the St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum, 200 little children dressed alike, who sat immediately behind the family."

O'Brien is buried at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline MA. 

A bust of Hugh O'Brien, made by sculptor John Donoghue, is on display in the Abbey Room of the Boston Public Library, which is along Boston's Irish Heritage Trail. 


Here is a list of Boston mayors claiming Irish ancestry from 1885 to the resent.

For information on ongoing cultural activities in Boston and throughout New England, visit IrishBoston.org


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Irish American Song & Dance Man George M. Cohan Born on July 3, 1878


George M. Cohan, famed Broadway song and dance man whose songs helped define the World War I generation, was born in Providence RI on July 3, 1878.  

A  statue honoring Cohan at the corner of Wickendon and Governor Streets in Providence  was created by noted sculptor Robert Shure, who also created  the Irish Famine Memorial in Boston and in Providence

Cohan (1878-1942) was the son of Jeremiah Cohan from Boston and Nellie Costigan from Providence.  They met met on the vaudeville circuit and married in 1874.  George and his sister Josephine became part of a successful family troupe, named the Four Cohans, which traveled around the country on the minstrel circuit, performing a cabaret of songs, dances, jokes and comedy routines popular at the time. 

In 1893 George settled in New York City and soon became the toast of Broadway, writing popular tunes like Yankee Doodle Dandy, You're a Grand Old Flag, and Over There, a trio of songs that resonnated with Americans and Europeans during World War I.

For  more about the contributions of Irish contributions to American popular culture, see Irish Boston: A Lively  Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past

For information on year round Irish cultural events in Massachusetts and the New England states, visit IrishMassachusetts.com  

For more on Boston's Irish-American heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Painter John S. Copley Born in Boston, July 3, 1738


America's first great portrait artist, John Singleton Copley (1737-1815) was born in Boston on July 3, 1738.  He was  the son of Irish immigrants who emigrated to Boston in the 1730s.

John's parents, Richard Copley and Mary Singleton from County Clare, were married in County Limerick before emigrating to Boston. Right after their son John was born, Richard Copley traveled to  the West Indies and died shortly thereafter, leaving John’s mother to raise him as a widow.  She worked at a shop in Boston that sold tobacco close to Boston Harbor. 

In 1747 Mary S. Copley married Peter Pelham, a colonial artist and an original member of the Charitable Irish Society formed in 1737. It was Pelham who helped to nurture his stepson John's talent, and by age twenty Copley had gained a reputation as a promising artist. His first painting, "A Boy and the Flying Squirrel," was sent to the Royal Academy in London and his reputation began to take shape.


Copley seized the opportunity to paint portraits of some of the leading colonists of the 18th century, including  George Washington, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. Other acclaimed works by Copley include A Boy Rescued from a Shark in the Harbor of Havana, and The Red Cross Knight, from Spencer's poem The Fairy Queen. 

His half-brother Henry Pelham was also a gifted artist.

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has over 50 Copley paintings, including the famous Paul Revere portrait. The Massachusetts Historical Society on Boylston Street has the portraits of John Hancock, Mary Otis Gray and several other prominent 18th century Americans.

A loyalist by persuasion, Copley’s life in Boston was disrupted by the growing unrest between the colonists and the British.  As a result,  Copley moved to Italy in 1774 to study Italian art, then the following year moved his family to London, according to MassMoments

Copley always wanted to return to Boston, but never did. He died in London in 1815.  

His name lives on in Boston. Copley Square Park in Boston's Back Bay was named in his honor in 1883. In 2002, the city of Boston unveiled a statue to John Singleton Copley by artist Lewis Cohen, and it is now on the Boston Irish Heritage Trail.  Also, Copley’s original home on Beacon Street has a plaque in his honor.

Learn more about Boston's Irish history at IrishHeritageTrail.com