Book Reviews: Massachusetts Troublemakers by Paul Della Vale

Author: Paul Della Valle
Title: Massachusetts Troublemakers: Rebels, Reformers, and Radicals from the Bay State
Publication Info: Globe Pequot (2009)
ISBN: 0762748508


This book was an award given to guides at the end of the 2009 Boston By Foot tour season and made for a fun, interesting read.  The title is a bit misleading as almost every figure mentioned in this book worked for the betterment of society but  as they all veered in some way from societal norms, they were seen as “trouble”.  There are some familiar names in this book such as Samuel Adams, Henry David Thoreau and Robert Gould Shaw.  I also enjoyed learning more about characters familiar to BBF guides if not the general public such as Anne Hutchinson, Isaiah Thomas, and James Michael Curley.  But it was most fascinating to read about people I’d never heard of before such as:

  • Thomas Morton, an early settler who was not at all Puritanical – drinking, carousing and (worst of all) trading with the Indians
  • Deborah Samson, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Revolution
  • Joseph Palmer, who wore a beard at a time when men were clean-shaven, was persecuted for it, and ended up involved in the transcendentalist and abolitionist movements
  • Margaret Fuller, an extremely talented journalist, activist, and feminist.

The short biographies don’t do justice to these fascinating figures of Bay State history, so fortunately there’s a great list of further reading at the back of the book.

Rating: ***

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