More than the story of past events, history tells us who we were, who we are, and even who we might be. Scituate history predates 1620 and the arrival of the Pilgrims in Plymouth and encompasses stories of bravery, adventure, accomplishment, patriotism and persistence. History encourages curiosity and, if done well, promotes understanding of different points of view, teaches critical thinking, and even entertains. The old saying that truth is stranger than fiction, is proven true over and over again as we study history.
Scituate has a proud history and herstory, too. Hard to believe, but true, is the story of Abigail and Rebecca Bates taking on the then most powerful navy in the world and winning. These girls used ingenuity, intelligence, and talent to fool the British Navy into thinking an army was lying in wait to overwhelm their landing party. The Bates girls story, deservedly so, holds pride of place in the hearts of multiple generations of Scituate residents.
That and other stories are preserved by the Scituate Historical Society. Check out their website www.scituatehistoricalsociety.org for more information. There you can learn about the properties owned and operated by the society. You can also learn how to become a member and a very reasonable membership fee. Maintaining records, preserving artifacts and engaging in research are just a few of the tasks undertaken by the Scituate Historical Society. There are many opportunities for townspeople to volunteer to become docents or in other interesting roles. You may even know some of the people active in the society such as David Ball, Bob Chessia, Mat Brown, Stephen Litchfield, Martha Twigg, Mary Porter and Denise Castro. We all owe a debt of gratitude to these dedicated people.
Historians are an interesting lot and there are many professional and amateur historians in our town. Among them is internationally acclaimed Catherine B. Shannon, PhD, a prolific researcher, writer and educator. Dr. Shannon has also served as president of the Eire Society of Boston and the Charitable Irish Society of Boston. In 1982, Dr. Shannon organized the first Symposium on Northern Ireland that brought Irish and British representatives together to discuss the political issues of the time. The event was held at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. There were three symposiums held over the years and these events lead the way for peace in Northern Ireland.
In 1994 Dr. Shannon received an award from the Charitable Irish Society for her work as an organizer for peace for Northern Ireland. Also in 1994, Dr. Shannon received the annual achievement award from the Irish Immigration Center of Boston. She served as President of the Charitable Irish Society which was founded in 1737. She had been a member of the society beginning in 1985 and she also served on their board of directors.
In 1997 Dr. Shannon won the Phi Kappa Phi Lecture Series Competition with her essay “The Changing Face of Cathleen Ni Houlihan: The Status of Women in Ireland, 1960 to 1996.”
In 2015 Dr. Shannon was awarded a gold medal citation from the Eire Society of Boston. This citation was awarded for the accomplishments of those who exemplify the best in Irish culture and ideals.
Dr. Shannon retired from Westfield State College in 2000. She is now Emerita Professor of History. (Westfield State University Collection Guides, Catherine B. Shannon Collection 1979-1991)
By Brenda O’Connor