The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family is a sweeping family saga, filled with stories of the Lowells of Massachusetts, from their start in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s, through their revolutionary exploits in the 1700s, the flourishing of their Boston Brahmin dynasty in the 1800s, and the new frontiers they braved in the opening decades of the 1900s.
The Lowells, for whom a town was named, a house at Harvard was named, a planet was named – but this family is not the stodgy, inflexible clan so often associated with Boston Brahmin families. These Lowells were masters of reinvention and adaptation.
Their ability to change course, along with their ingrained ideals of individual opportunity, hard work, and community responsibility, led them to be movers and shakers in all the eras in which they lived.
Each succeeding generation of the Lowells adhered to the family motto of “Occasionem Cognosce” (seize opportunity) and adapted to changing times, from the 68-year old merchant who came to New England from Bristol in 1639 and became a farmer, through the twentieth century renegade poet who broke with Brahmin restrictions on female advocacy in pursuing her dreams.
A preacher turned community organizer, a lawyer turned revolutionary, a trader turned manufacturer, a traveler of the Far East turned traveler of the Universe. Ministers who fought for change, lawyers who fought for revolutions, boys who fought to end slavery, and young women who fought for the chance to live their own lives: these are the Lowells of Massachusetts.
The Lowell family, though divided — sometimes bitterly — on definitions of duty and loyalty, never faltered in their belief in unlimited human potential or in their commitment to ideals of individual responsibility, hard work, and community service. Shying from neither controversy nor adversity, the family boasted some of the most captivating individuals in America’s history:
Percival Lowle, who at the age of 68 traveled across the Atlantic to start over in the New World;
Reverend John Lowell, seventeenth century preacher with a big heart and love of song;
Judge John Lowell, lawyer extraordinaire who fought for the rights of slaves to be free, and a member of the Continental Congress;
Anna Cabot Lowell, whose short life still inspired generations of women named for her;
Francis Cabot Lowell, manufacturer and founder of the Industrial Revolution in the US;
Reverend Charles Lowell, minister and abolitionist, who suffered tragedies at home but persevered in widening his ministry of love and tolerance throughout Boston;
James Russell Lowell, American Romantic poet, founding editor of The Atlantic Monthly; and creator of the anthem for the anti-slavery movement;
Lawrence Lowell, one of Harvard’s longest-serving and most controversial presidents;
Percival Lowell, whose writings about Mars set off a universal love affair with the Red Planet that continues today; and
Amy Lowell, the twentieth century Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who brought poetry to the masses, including entire regiments of World War I soldiers, and lived openly — and happily — with her lover Ada Dwyer Russell, a retired actress and divorced Mormon.
Through the centuries, the Lowells realized the promise of America as the land of opportunity by uniting their values of individual opportunity, hard work, and community responsibility with a deep-seated optimism. long before the Kennedys put their stamp on Massachusetts, the Lowells claimed the bedrock.
“[A] stirring saga…” says the Wall Street Journal; “Vivid and intimate … Sankovitch has made a compelling contribution to Massachusetts and American History.”
“Meet American’s Most Extraordinary Family: the Lowells of Massachusetts,” says The Washington Post: “Sankovitch has searched out these letters to write the powerful story of one of America’s most extraordinary families, a family that helped shape the course of American history in dramatic and decisive ways…By the final pages of this volume, one feels deeply attached to the individual Lowells, while also exhilarated at having experienced this grand sweep of American history.“
The Connecticut Post calls it, “an astonishingly compact 328 pages (considering how much family history it covers) and reads like a fine novel. You might be reminded of one of those deep digs into history and storytelling that James Michener used to do in his novels “Hawaii” and “Chesapeake.”
“A fascinating collective biography … paying tribute to both worthy individuals and everyone else in this prominent, complicated family,” says Booklist.
Recommended by Library Journal: “Sankovitch’s use of interpretative passages breathe color into descriptions of home life of various Lowells, adding an artistic dimension to the account. Her ability to switch the focus among the family members while keeping readers fully engaged in the narrative is a significant achievement.”