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Boston's Top 10 : Figures in Boston History

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  1. John Winthrop (1587–1649)

    Acting on a daring plan put together by English Puritans in 1629, Winthrop led approximately 800 settlers to the New World to build a godly civilization in the wilderness. He settled his Puritan charges at Boston in 1630  and served as the governor of the new Massachusetts Bay Colony until his death.

  2. Increase Mather (1639–1723)

    Educated at Harvard, preacher Increase Mather solidified the hold of Puritan theologians on the Massachusetts government. When William took the English crown, Mather persuaded the king to grant a charter that gave the colony the right to elect the council of the governor in 1691. His influence was later undermined by his support of the 1692 Salem witch trials.

  3. Samuel Adams (1722–1803)

    Failed businessman Samuel Adams became Boston’s master politician in the tumultuous years leading up to the revolution. Adams signed the Declaration of Independence and served in both Continental Congresses. As governor of Massachusetts, he joined Paul Revere in laying the cornerstone of the State House in 1795.

  4. Paul Revere (1735–1818)

    Best known for his “midnight ride” to forewarn the rebels of the British march on Concord, Revere served the American Revolution as organizer, messenger, and propagandist. A gifted silversmith with many pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts, he founded the metalworking firm that gilded the State House dome and sheathed the hull of the USS Constitution.

  5. Harrison Gray Otis (1765–1848)

    In the 1790s, Harrison Gray Otis and James Mason transformed Beacon Hill from a hilly pasture into a chic neighborhood that embodies the Federal building style. Otis championed the architecture of Charles Bulfinch, and three of his Bulfinch-designed houses still grace Beacon Hill, including the one now known as Harrison Gray Otis House.

  6. Donald McKay (1810–1880)

    McKay built the largest and swiftest of the clipper ships in his East Boston shipyard in 1850. The speedy vessels revolutionized long-distance shipping at the time of the California gold rush and gave Boston its last glory days as a mercantile port before the rise of rail transport.

  7. Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910)

    After recovering from a major accident, Eddy wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the basis of Christian Science. She founded a church in Boston in 1879, and in 1892 reorganized it as the First Church of Christ, Scientist . Eddy also established the Pulitzer prize-winning Christian Science Monitor newspaper in 1908.

    Mary Baker Eddy
  8. James Michael Curley (1874–1958)

    Self-proclaimed champion of “the little people,” Curley used patronage and Irish pride to retain a stranglehold on Boston politics from his election as mayor in 1914 until his defeat at the polls in 1949. Known as “the rascal king” he embodied political corruption but created many enduring public works.

    James Michael Curley
  9. John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)

    Grandson of Irish-American mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and son of ambassador Joseph Kennedy, John F. Kennedy represented Boston in both houses of the US Congress before he became the first Roman Catholic elected president of the United States. The presidential library at Columbia Point exhibits his brief, but intense, period in office.

    John F. Kennedy
  10. W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. (1920–1999)

    In 1974, US District Court judge Garrity ruled that African-American students had been denied their constitutional rights to the best available education. He ordered a desegregation plan for Boston’s 200 schools, setting off protests, some violent, in predominantly white neighborhoods.

Literary Bostonians

  1. Anne Bradstreet

    Bradstreet (c.1612–72) was America’s first poet, publishing The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America in 1650.

  2. Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Poet and philosopher, Emerson (1803–82) espoused transcendentalism and pioneered American literary independence.

  3. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Known for epic poems such as Hiawatha, Longfellow (1807– 82) also translated Dante.

  4. Louisa May Alcott

    Little Women sealed Alcott’s (1832–88) literary fame, but she also acted as a nurse in the Civil War.

  5. Henry James

    Master of sonorous prose, James (1843–1916) is considered one of the creators of the psychological novel.

  6. Dorothy West

    African-American novelist and essayist West (1907– 98) made sharp observations about class and race conflicts.

  7. Robert Lowell

    Lowell’s (1917–77) “confessional poetry” influenced a generation of writers.

  8. Robert Parker

    Scholar of mystery literature, Parker (b.1932) is best known for his signature detective Spenser.

  9. Robert Pinsky

    Poet, critic, and translator Pinsky (b.1940) served as US poet laureate and now teaches at Boston University.

  10. David Mamet

    Playwright and screen­writer Mamet (b.1947) brings a gift for gritty language to explorations of lost morality.

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