Monday, March 25, 2019

April Author Talk: Eileen McNamara

 Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara
Monday, April 8, 2019—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eileen McNamara will be speaking at the State Library of Massachusetts on Monday, April 8, about her latest book, Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World.

Although Eunice Kennedy Shriver may not have been the most well-known member of the Kennedy family, Ms. McNamara’s book argues that she has left behind the Kennedy family’s most profound political legacy. As the visionary founder of the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver changed the lives of millions of people around the world with intellectual disabilities. This comprehensive biography draws from never-before-seen private papers, including diaries, letters, speeches, and drafts of legislation, which reveal a legacy of social activism that began long before that of Eunice’s more famous brothers.

Author Eileen McNamara is Director of the Journalism Program at Brandeis University and has been a journalism professor since 2007. Previously, she spent nearly thirty years as a journalist at The Boston Globe, where she won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and also contributed to the coverage of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston. Ms. McNamara is the author of two previous books and is the recipient of numerous writing and public service awards.

Ms. McNamara will be selling and signing copies of Eunice at the conclusion of her talk. For more information about the State Library and our Author Talk series, please visit our website at

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library:

Monday, March 18, 2019

Parlez-vous Law French?

The State Library’s collections never cease to surprise and inform me of the never-before-heard-of historical obscurities.  As I was cataloging some old volumes of laws of Great Britain and Wales, I wondered why are laws of the English king were written in French?  Latin, I could understand the reasoning, but French?  Turns out the language was, in fact, not French, but an entirely separate and now defunct, French language dialect called “Law French.”  Law French, during the time it existed, was primarily only a written language and on the occasions when it was spoken, it was pronounced as if it were English.  These are some of the items in our collection written in this mysterious language of Law French.:

To discover the origins of this phenomenon, I had to venture back into my history lesson memory banks (with the help of the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica online) to the time of the Norman Conquest of England in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by William the Conqueror. With William came the introduction of not just a new King of England, but also an entirely new English aristocracy as William’s French countrymen were given English lands and titles (as documented in the Domesday Book—a facsimile of which the State Library also owns).  No longer did the ruling classes in England speak English; they now spoke French, or at least the variant French spoken in Normandy at the time.

The use of French as the everyday spoken language of the upper classes continued during the rule of the House of Plantagenet and would start suffering a major decline during the Hundred Years’ War and England’s eventual loss to France, the rise of English nationalism, and the internal Wars of the Roses. The use of spoken French in legal circles also came to be criticized as elitist and exclusionary to those aspiring to enter the profession.  In 1362 the “Pleading of English Act” made English the official language of all spoken legal proceedings whereas Latin would be the official written language until it was officially changed to English in 1790 by the “Proceedings in Courts of Justice Act.” 

And what became of the language of “Law French"? It remained as part of the academic preparation of English lawyers during the 14th and 15th centuries but ended up becoming increasingly anglicized leading to its eventual decline and ultimate demise.” However, its legacy in the evolution of the English legal lexicon is assured, as familiar terms derived from “Law French” still are used in contemporary legal language today—including the words attorney, jury, bailiff, plaintiff, defendant, and parole.  Bonne chance of having a legal case without these!  

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, March 4, 2019

Facts about Cities, Towns and the State of Massachusetts

The State Library’s collections include numerous useful resources about the cities, towns and the State of Massachusetts.  Many people come to the Library to use our extensive holdings of annual town reports, but we have many other publications that have information about the cities and towns.  Here are a few examples.

The Massachusetts Municipal Directory 2018-2019, a reference book, takes each city and town and tells us who is in charge of their libraries, the Police Department, Town Clerk, housing, Public Works, schools etc., and also gives contact information.  Other information includes statistics about the municipality such as population, school enrollment, number of registered voters, the county they’re in, the square miles, income per capita, average tax bill, tax rate and total expenditures.  For instance, the city of Northampton has a population of 28,540, is part of Hampshire county, has an area 34.2 square miles, and has 178.9 miles of public roads.  Their next mayoral election is November 5, 2019.

Historic Data Relating to Counties, Cities, and Towns in Massachusetts is an extremely useful book for finding out when a city or town was incorporated as well as its history before and after incorporation.  One can also find out other names that the area was called and names for various parts of the city or town.  Did you know that before August 5, 1634 Ipswich (the old spelling is Ipswitch) was called Aggawam? The book gives the citation to this fact as the Mass. Bay Rec., Vol. I, p. 123.  (The Massachusetts Bay Records are volumes that precede the Massachusetts Acts.)  Some former section and village names of Ipswich include Appletons, Little Neck, Plum Island and Willowdale.

Another example is that “Southwick is in Worcester County and it was established as a district by the name of Southwick from part of Westfield. (Prov. Laws, Vol. V, p. 75).” In Aug. 23, 1775 it was made a town, by an act under which districts became towns.  Other names for Southwick sections or village names are Gilletts Corner, Point Grove, Rising Corners and Southwick Center. 

Here are a few more important dates of some other Massachusetts cities and towns.

If you want a variety of facts about Massachusetts check out these publications: Massachusetts Facts: A Review of the History, Government, and Symbols in Massachusetts, which is printed by the Secretary of State’s office. This volume has fun facts such as noteworthy people born in Massachusetts, a historic sketch of Massachusetts, explains the rooms in the State House, famous firsts in Massachusetts, information on the state flag, and a brief biography of Sgt. William H. Carney, an African American Civil War hero. 

Here is a partial list of Famous Firsts from Massachusetts Facts:

  • 1716 The first American lighthouse was built in Boston Harbor.
  • 1775 The first ship of the U.S. Navy, the schooner “Hannah”, was commissioned in Beverly.
  • 1778 The Town of Franklin was the first community to change its name to honor Benjamin Franklin.
  • 1789 The first American novel, William Hill Brown’s “The Power of Sympathy”, was published in Worcester.
  • 1803 The Middlesex Canal, the first canal built for commercial use in the United States, was completed.
  • 1806 The first church built by free blacks in America, the African Meeting House, opened on Joy Street in Boston.
  • 1827 Francis Leiber opened the first swim school in America. Among the first to enroll was John Quincy Adams.
  • 1831 The first abolitionist newspaper, “The Liberator”, was published in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison.
  • 1837 Samuel Morse invented the electric telegraph based on Morse Code, a simple pattern of “dots” and dashes.
  • 1839 Rubber was first vulcanized by Charles Goodyear in Woburn.
  • 1840 The typewriter was invented by Charles Thurber in Worcester.

The Encyclopedia of Massachusetts is a 2 volume reference set. Volume 1 contains information on subjects such as nicknames, the state seal, state flag, the bird, flower, tree, song and license plate.  Nicknames for Massachusetts include the Bay State, the Pilgrim state, the Puritan state, the Old Colony State and the Baked Bean State; the State Seal, State Flag, the motto, which is Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty).   The state license plate came into being in Massachusetts in September of 1902. The speed limit was 15 miles per hour.  Volume 2 has Massachusetts listings of historical places by county, and a select bibliography of books about Massachusetts.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian