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The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty

The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty

by Neal Thompson
The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty

The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty

by Neal Thompson


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“Here is that rare thing: an untold chapter in the Kennedy saga. . .Compelling and illuminating.”—Jon Meacham

Based on genealogical breakthroughs and previously unreleased records, this is the first book to explore the inspiring story of the poor Irish refugee couple who escaped famine; created a life together in a city hostile to Irish, immigrants, and Catholics; and launched the Kennedy dynasty in America.

Their Irish ancestry was a hallmark of the Kennedys’ initial political profile, as JFK leveraged his working-class roots to connect with blue-collar voters. Today, we remember this iconic American family as the vanguard of wealth, power, and style rather than as the descendants of poor immigrants. Here at last, we meet the first American Kennedys, 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.

Written by the grandson of an Irish immigrant couple and based on first-ever access to P.J. Kennedy’s private papers, The First Kennedys is a story of sacrifice and survival, resistance and reinvention: an American story.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780358437697
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/22/2022
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 56,384
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

NEAL THOMPSON is a journalist and the author of five highly acclaimed books, including A Curious Man, Driving with the Devil, and the fatherhood-and-skateboarding memoir Kickflip Boys. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Esquire, Outside,, and more and has taught creative nonfiction at Hugo House and the Great Smokies Writing Program. He lives in Seattle with his family.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Prologue i

Part I Bridget the Refugee

1 Bridget's Escape 7

2 Bridget at Sea 13

3 Bridget on the Farm 25

4 Bridget in the City 35

Part II Bridget and Patrick

5 Bridget Goes to Work 47

6 Bridget Gets Married 56

7 Bridget the Mother 70

8 Bridget the Enemy 83

Part III Bridget: Alone

9 Bridget the Widow 99

10 Bridget the Servant 110

11 Bridget the Hairdresser 123

12 Bridget the Grocer 137

Part IV Bridget and P.J.

13 P.J. the Rascal 149

14 P.J. the Longshoreman 160

15 P.J. the Bartender 174

16 P.J. the Democrat 189

Part V P.J.

17 P.J. the Legislator 205

18 P.J. the Senator 221

19 P.J. the Boss 238

20 P.J. the American 256

Epilogue: Joe and John 272

Family Tree 283

Acknowledgments and Author's Note 284

Notes and Sources 289

Select Bibliography 318

Index 324

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