Such an incredible day at the Everett Mill today! The Lawrence History Center welcomed nearly 200 people for a full day of scholarship and dialogue about the new immigration into Lawrence and similar communities. We’ll report out with more photos and stories from the day, but here’s one of our wonderful Lawrence focused roundtable discussion after lunch with panelists (l to r): Professor Llana Barber, SUNY at Old Westbury; Atty. Zoila Gomez, Eliana Martinez, Lawrence International High School; Victor Martinez, Lawrence CommunityWorks; Professor Robert Forrant, UMass Lowell/Lawrence History Center board of directors (moderator). More soon! (Photo and caption , 4/5/14, courtesy of Lawrence History Center on Facebook and Bob Forrant)
Today is the last day to register at the lower rate for the Immigration History Symposium this Saturday, April 5, in Lawrence, Mass., hosted by the Lawrence History Center. Panels, film, poetry, photography, smart people, fun people, at a great venue. Why pay extra---register today!(Registering now helps us order the correct amount of food, folks.) Please register here: http://www.lawrencehistorycenter.org/symposium Robert Forrant, Professor, UMass Lowell, 978-934-2904
UMass Lowell history professor and economic analyst Bob Forrant yesterday contributed an op-ed essay to the Eagle-Tribune newspaper of Greater Lawrence. In the piece, Bob makes a case for this being a turn-around moment in Lawrence based on positive facts, which are chipping away at the standard negative perception of Lawrence that is as rock-solid as the months-old snowbanks on our city streets in the river valley. Read the essay here, and adjust your glasses as you look downriver.
Note from the Eagle-Tribune: “A more detailed version of this essay is in MassBenchmarks, a joint publication of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the University of Massachusetts president’s office. Robert Forrant, a member of the History Dpartment at UMass Lowell, is on the editorial board of MassBenchmarks. vcwww.massbenchmarks.org “
Fire and Ice
BY ROBERT FROST
The air in the Merrimack Valley is electric with political static these days. Of note is the open window of opportunity for candidates looking for a spot on the September Democratic primary ballot. Since February 8th and through March 2nd, across the Valley and across the Commonwealth delegates seats for the June 13-14 Democratic Party convention are up for election. These delegates – as well as some ex-officos and some add-ons – will validate and endorse candidates for our Constitutional offices. Vigorous courting, soft reminders of past commitments, connecting to issues, mutual colleagues, family, friends even alums are part of the strategies of this political process. The Merrimack Valley continues to be a “hot spot” for the primary push. The caucuses that I attended in Tewksbury and the ward caucuses in Lowell and Lawrence were well-attended and boasted of old faces and new. They were the focus of most state-wide candidates as evidenced by the line-up waiting to speak at the Lowell High cafeteria last week, and the density of campaign workers knotted at the doors of the Tewksbury Library Community Room and the Lawrence Firefighter’s Hall “Relief-In” yesterday. Caucuses are a great opportunity to collect signatures – also a very critical part of the process! Delegate counts are being taken; campaigns are calculating percentages; pundits are prognosticating; columnists are critical, curious and whiney. Notwithstanding, the whacks of Glober Joan Venocchi and the quizzical frowns of other observers, the process – occasionally tweaked – works for Democrats and for this democratic political process. Any Democrat in good-standing can play!
Les Bernal of Lawrence is a familiar name in certain political circles of the Merrimack Valley. These days he is the national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a nonprofit organization opposed to casinos and state lotteries. In today’s New York Times, he takes on the topic of sports betting. Here is his take and the larger discussion.
Web photo courtesy of Ithaca College/John Harrington
These early days of January 2014 are days of mayoral inaugurations. Yesterday – after winning a squeaker over the former controversial mayor – it was Dan Rivera in Lawrence and there’s the upcoming swearing-in of Marty Walsh – the first new mayor of Boston in twenty years. Monday will see a new mayor for Lowell – long-time city councilor Rodney Elliott appears to have the votes. Let’s go to the archive for a look back at an historic mayoral moment.. the first Irish mayor elected to serve in Boston takes his oath…
Mayor O’Brien of Boston and Mayor Donovan of Lowell
With the city of Lowell just having elected its youngest mayor and one of Irish descent – Patrick O. Murphy, it’s interesting to read the MassMoments story today about Hugh O’Brien. O’Brien was sworn-in on this day – January 5, 1885 - as the city of Boston’s first Irish-born Mayor. O’Brien’s swearing-in marked the beginning of a new era in Boston politics. The city had long been controlled by native-born Protestants -referred to as we look back as “Yankees” – most of whom had a stereotypical view of Irish immigrants as poor, ignorant, undisciplined and worst of all under the thumb of the Catholic Church. But by 1885, the Irish were over 40% of the city’s population. They were the largest group of foreign-born residents and outnumbered the native-born Yankees – this reality and the families that followed brought about political change in Boston and elsewhere. Lowell voters elected the first Irish Catholic Mayor – John J. Donovan – in 1882. Against the stereotype – Donovan was a successful banker and resident of the Highlands. Donovan and others built a strong Democratic party organization in the city of Lowell. The Donovan administration added buildings to the City Poor Farm, built schools and bridges and made the public library free to all citizens. Other early Irish Mayors of Lowell include: Jeremiah Crowley, James B. Casey, John F. Meehan, James E. O’Donnell and Dennis Murphy.
Back to Boston… On this day:
…in 1885, Hugh O’Brien, the first Irish immigrant elected mayor of Boston, took the oath of office. A new era was beginning. For several decades, the Roman Catholic Irish had outnumbered the native-born Protestants, who were now forced to give up their long domination of Boston politics. As a well-spoken, mild mannered, successful businessman, O’Brien defied all the Yankee stereotypes of Irishmen. During four terms as Mayor, he widened streets, planned the Emerald Necklace park system, and built the new Boston Public Library in Copley Square, all the while cutting taxes. Popular among both native- and Irish-born Bostonians, Hugh O’Brien paved the way for the better known Irish mayors who would follow him — “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and James Michael Curley.
Read more about Mayor O’Brien here at MassMoments.org.
For more information about Lowell Mayors – read “The Mills and the Multitudes: A Political History” by Dr. Mary Blewett – a chapter in Cotton Was King: A History of Lowell, Massachusetts edited by Arthur L. Eno and published in 1976 as a project of the Lowell Historical Society.
Dust of Snow
“Frost’s own poetical education began in San Francisco where he was born in 1874, but he found his place of safety in New England when his family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1884 following his father’s death. The move was actually a return, for Frost’s ancestors were originally New Englanders. The region must have been particularly conducive to the writing of poetry because within the next five years Frost had made up his mind to be a poet. In fact, he graduated from Lawrence High School, in 1892, as class poet (he also shared the honor of co-valedictorian with his wife-to-be Elinor White); and two years later, the New York Independent accepted his poem entitled “My Butterfly,” launching his status as a professional poet with a check for $15.00.”To celebrate his first publication, Frost had a book of six poems privately printed; two copies of Twilight were made—one for himself and one for his fiancee. Over the next eight years, however, he succeeded in having only thirteen more poems published. During this time, Frost sporadically attended Dartmouth and Harvard and earned a living teaching school and, later, working a farm in Derry, New Hampshire. But in 1912, discouraged by American magazines’ constant rejection of his work, he took his family to England, where he could “write and be poor without further scandal in the family.” In England, Frost found the professional esteem denied him in his native country. Continuing to write about New England, he had two books published, A Boy’s Will and North of Boston, which established his reputation so that his return to the United States in 1915 was as a celebrated literary figure. Holt put out an American edition of North of Boston, and periodicals that had once scorned his work now sought it. “—(Courtesy of PoetryFoundation.org)
The New Yorker magazine’s online site has posted a thoughtful article by Ian Sheffler in which the writer examines the possibility that head injuries from his football days may explain some of the health and emotional disorders that plagued author Jack Kerouac as an adult. Read the article here.
Jack Kerouac on the move in the Lowell-Lawrence football game, 1938.
Professor Bob Forrant of UMass Lowell writes about history and economics with a special interest in older industrial cities like Lawrence, Holyoke, Lowell, and the other so-called Gateway Cities of Massachusetts and the Northeast. He recently published an article about Lawrence that looks closely at the city’s prospects and challenges. Read the Mass Benchmarks article here.