My research partner, Dale Danley, and I passed hours in the city’s Free Public Library, scouring old local newspapers – at the time accessible only in New Bedford and Boston and not available through inter-library loan. Paul Cyr, the library’s Curator of Special Collections, generously shared insights with me from his vast knowledge of New Bedford’s past. For example, he understood the textile industry of the 1880s well enough to suggest that Marie Equi probably worked as a weaver at one of the textile mills given her age, fourteen, and her one year of high school education.
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We traced Equi real estate transactions and walked along the Second Street block where the family house once stood and also to the west-of-County-Road developments where Marie moved with her parents and siblings when she was eight years old. We visited the family’s church, St. Lawrence, Martyr, that Marie’s stonemason father had helped build. There we found the sacramental records of her parents, siblings, and cousins – baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals. The records revealed the ages of Marie’s parents when they married, when their first child was born, and Marie’s birth as the fifth child and the fifth daughter. I learned the number of her siblings, how many childhood deaths the family suffered, and the marriages of all the adult siblings except Marie. The research later informed my biography of Marie Equi’s early years in ways that would not have been possible without a site visit.
Our several days in the New Bedford area also allowed us to explore the national whaling museum, take an informal tour of historic houses, visit bookstores, explore Fairhaven across the river, sample Cape Verdean cuisine, and drive through the countryside, hike along wetlands, and stop at coastal towns. Included here are several photos from that first visit.