Thursday, August 16, 2012

Treasures of the State Library for August, 2012: Massachusetts Legislators as Authors

Members of the Massachusetts legislature, known as the General Court, come to office from many professions- lawyering, insurance, social work, retail, teaching, policing, academia, manufacturing and farming just to name a few. Over the course of their careers, many also become authors of books which find a place in the world of politics and government. For many years, the State Library has requested that Legislators leaving office consider donating their papers to the State Library. The books and personal papers become part of the State Library's collections. 

Former Senate Minority Leader John Parker, from Taunton, relished writing about “legislative life” and about his long career in the Senate which ranged from 1953 until 1990. His The Fun and Laughter of Politics is full of chapters with enticing names such as “The Constituents always Write” and “The Country Needs Me.” The State Library also has his papers collection number is Ms. Coll. 35.

For another perspective on legislative life, one might wish to read former Representative from Framingham Barbara Gray’s book A Woman’s Ways and Means (her papers collection number Ms. Coll. 114).

Her tales about her role through twenty four years in the Massachusetts House, have engaging chapter titles such as “What’s A Nice Girl Like you Doing in Politics?” and “Lost in the State House.” Representative Gray served from January 1973 through January 1997.

Massachusetts legislators are often known as experts on public policy. One recent example is former Representative John E. McDonough of Boston who served in the House from January of 1985 until December 1st 1997 when he resigned to join the Institute for Health Policy at Brandeis University. Representative McDonough played a major role in the formation of the Massachusetts Health Care Law signed in 2006 and has been touted as influential in the development of the federal Affordable Care Act.
In Experiencing Politics: A Legislator’s Stories of Government and Health Care, published in 2000, the author focuses on “Agendas and Children’s Health Care,” but also on issues such as “landlord and tenant” and “fiscal crisis.” His papers can are also available collection number is Ms. Coll. 101.

These are, of course, just three examples of a plethora of members who are published. And, it so happens that the State Library not only owns these three legislators’ books, but has also been fortunate to have garnered the legislative papers of all three. The manuscript collections, located in the Special Collections Department, are of great value to researchers.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian
State Library of Massachusetts