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Showing posts from October, 2023

Connections Between Black Poet Phyllis Wheatley and the Church of Irish Strangers in Boston

Courtesy of The Met Phyllis Wheatley, the enslaved woman from Africa who arrived in Boston in 1761 and who is considered America’s first Black female poet, had an interesting connection to the first Irish church in Boston during the 18th century, a Presbyterian congregation known as the Church of Irish Strangers, or alternately, the Church of Presbyterian Strangers.  In 1773, the year her popular book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published, Wheatley penned a moving poem to Miss Mary Moorhead, the daughter of Reverend John Moorhead, the popular head the Church of Irish Strangers, who had died in December. Wheatley’s poem is titled “Elegy to Miss Mary Moorhead, on the Death of her Father, The Rev. Mr. John Moorhead,” and reads in part:   Involved in clouds of woe, Maria mourns,  And various anguish wracks her Soul by turns;   See thy loved parent languishing in Death,  His Exit watch, and catch his flying breath…  Thine, and the Church’s Sorrows I depl

The Daring Life of Boston Journalist and Activist Mary Boyle O'Reilly (1873-1939)

Journalist, social activist and Boston native Mary Boyle O'Reilly, died on October 21, 1939 at her home in Newton at age 66. The eldest of four girls, she was born in Charlestown on May 18, 1873, and was the daughter Irish patriot and poet John Boyle O'Reilly and Agnes Smiley Murphy. Her passion for protecting children and young women was a hallmark of her life.  In 1901 O’Reilly helped establish the Guild of St. Elizabeth, a Catholic settlement home for Children in Boston’s South End.  From 1907-1911 she was Massachusetts Prison Commissioner.   In 1910, she went undercover under an assumed name and uncovered the infamous baby farms that housed unwed mothers and their babies under inhumane conditions.  She helped create a law to prevent abuses at these facilities.  On the labor front, O'Reilly investigated conditions for women working in canneries and also wrote about the women garment strikers in New York in 1913.   During the World War, she wrote syndicated dispatches fr

The USS Constitution, Old Ironsides, was first launched on October 21, 1797

  Battle between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere, 19 August 1812, by Michel Felice Corne   Courtesy U.S. Navy - Naval History and Heritage Command, 80-G-K-26254 America's oldest commissioned ship, the  USS Constitution , was first launched on October 21, 1797, and is berthed in the  Charlestown Navy Yard.   The USS Constitution is operated by the  US Navy , a partner of the  National Historic Parks of Boston . Known as Old Ironsides for its durability during battle, the USS Constitution has some important Irish connections.  During the War of 1812, the USS Constitution was commanded by  Commodore Charles Stewart,  who was awarded a congressional gold medal for his leadership. Commodore Stewart was the grandfather of Ireland’s famous Home Rule leader,  Charles Stewart Parnell  and poet  Fanny Parnell . Of the many Irish sailors served on the Constitution, Irish-born  Daniel Hogan  was perhaps the most famous, according to the  USS Constitution Museum . During a heated battle with

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum is formally dedicated on October 20, 1979

  Image Courtesy of JFK Library United States President Jimmy Carter joined numerous elected officials, political dignitaries and members of the Kennedy family to formally dedicated the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum at Columbia Point in Boston on October 20, 1979, before seven thousand people.  In addition to President Carter, participants at the ceremony included Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., Stephen E. Smith, Humbert Cardinal Medeiros, Reverent Herbert Meza, Joseph P. Kennedy II and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was center stage but did not speak. Other non-participating members included Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Senator Paul Tsongas, Congressman Joe Moakley, Congressman Brian Donnelly, Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, Governor Edward J. King, Lt. Governor Thomas P. O'Neill III, Senate President William Bulger, Speaker Thomas McGee, Mayor Kevin H.White, Speaker John W. McCormack and Dave Powers. Music was pro

Massachusetts Native Ann Sullivan, the Miracle Worker, Died on October 20, 1936

  Educator Ann Sullivan, known in her lifetime as the Miracle Worker for her work with the blind, including her pupil Helen Keller, died on October 20, 1936 at age 70. The daughter of impoverished Irish immigrants, Annie was born on April 14, 1866 in Feeding Hills, Agawam, Massachusetts. When she was five, Annie contracted trachoma, an eye disease caused by bacteria, which caused her to become partially blind. After her mother died in 1874, eight year old Annie and her brother Jimmie were sent to the Tewksbury Almshouse, known as the Poor House for indigent people. Conditions were horrible, and her brother Jimmie died shortly after arriving.   When state officials arrived to conduct an investigation of the almshouse, Annie convinced the commissioners to send her to the Perkins Institution in South Boston, which taught blind children to read, write and spell. Annie entered the school in October 1880. After graduation, Annie was sent to Tuscumbia Alabama to teach a six year old blin

This Halloween, Remember Irish Woman Goodwife Ann Glover, Hung in Boston in 1688 by Crazed Puritans

Halloween may be the holiday of ghosts and goblins, witches and wizards, but back in the 17th century, being called a witch had severely negative connotations, as an Irish immigrant woman named Goodwife Ann Glover learned the hard way. Goodwife Glover, as she was known, was falsely accused of being a witch. According to 18th century accounts, Glover was an Irish indentured servant who had been sent to Barbados in the 1650s after the Cromwell invasion of Ireland. Her husband went with her, and when he died on the island, Ann and her daughter came to Boston where she worked in the Goodwin household as a servant. The Goodwins 13-year-old daughter Martha swore she got sick shortly after discovering Goody stealing laundry. Based on that flimsy charge and plenty of innuendo, Goody was charged with witchcraft by a handful of self-righteous Puritan ministers and was ordered to stand trial. In the courtroom, there was confusion over Glover's testimony, since she refused to speak Engli

Playwright Eugene O'Neill, born in NYC on October 16, 1888, is Buried in Boston's Forest Hills Cemetery

  Photo of Eugene O'Neill, courtesy of  PBS, An American Experience Eugene O’Neill, one of the great American playwrights and winner of the  Nobel Prize for Literature , was born in a hotel on October 16, 1888 in New York City to parents Ella Quinlan and Irish actor James O’Neill. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, the highest literary honor in the world, and also won several Pulitzer Prizes for his plays.  O’Neill spent his formative years in New London, CT at Monte Cristo Cottage, the family’s summer home on Pequot Avenue. Later in life, O’Neill also spent considerable time in Massachusetts, taking a playwriting course at Harvard in 1914, then forming a troupe on Cape Cod called the Provincetown Players, which produced his play Bound East for Cardiff, in 1916.  In between, O'Neill led an adventurous life. As a sailor, shipping out of Boston, he traveled around the world, then headed down to Honduras to prospect for gold. He worked for awhile in Buenos Aire

Irish Poet William B. Yeats Visits Boston to Promote the Abbey Theatre

Irish poet William Butler Yeats visited Boston in fall 1911 to promote the Abbey Theatre , Ireland’s new national theatre. The Boston visit included presentations of J.M. Synge’s plays, including the controversial Playboy of the Western World. On October 6, 1911 he attended a luncheon in his honor at the Exchange Club, hosted by the John Boyle O’Reilly Club and covered by The Boston Daily Globe. During Yeats’ remarks, he paid special tribute to O’Reilly, saying in part: “I never met Boyle O’Reilly, but, as far as I can remember, the first poem of mine that was ever paid for appeared in the Boston Pilot under is editorship. I don’t remember how I came to send my poems to him, but rumor used to come back to Ireland of his romantic and gallant personality and we all knew of his adventurous life. Probably it was old John O’Leary, the Fenian, who got me to send them, for he had told me much of O’Reilly.” Regarding Ireland’s cultural and political movements, Yeats said “the present in