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An Antebellum-Era Irish Maid’s Incredible Determination and Business Savvy Led to the Creation of the Kennedy Dynasty

April 21, 2022
00:00 41:05
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The Kennedys are remembered the vanguard of wealth, power, and style. But their story begins in 1840s Boston, when a poor Irish refugee couple who were escaping famine created a life together in a city hostile to Irish, immigrants, and Catholics, and launched arguably the most powerful dynasty in America’s history.

The working class background and Irish ancestry JFK leveraged to connect to blue-collar voters referred to Patrick and Bridget, who arrived as many thousands of others did following the Great Famine—penniless and hungry. Less than a decade after their marriage in Boston, Patrick’s sudden death left Bridget to raise their children single-handedly. Her rise from housemaid to shop owner in the face of rampant poverty and discrimination kept her family intact, allowing her only son P.J. to become a successful saloon owner and businessman. P.J. went on to become the first American Kennedy elected to public office—the first of many.

To look at this story of survival and reinvention – and the powers and dangers of nepotism if left unchecked – is Neal Thompson, author of the book “The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty.” We look at what it took to rise from poverty to prosperity in antebellum America, the rough power politics of Irish Boston, and the seeds of empire planted by Joe Kennedy in Depression-era America.

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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