The Mayflower Murderer and Other Forgotten Firsts in American History

Peter Stevens, Author
Peter Stevens, Author William Morrow & Company $20 (272p) ISBN 978-0-688-11818-1
Reviewed on: 01/04/1993
Release date: 01/01/1993
This pop history by a frequent contributor to American Heritage spotlights 25 pioneers in various fields, with an emphasis on women and a nod to African Americans. Opening with an account of the only troublemaker to arrive on the Mayflower , John Billington, hanged 10 years later for killing a fellow pilgrim, the book goes on to the first feminist, who demanded the vote in 1648; the first white and first black ``poetesses'' to publish--Massachusetts settler Anne Bradstreet (1619-1672) and Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), who was brought to Boston on a slave ship; the first American counterfeiter, a woman shrewd enough to escape punishment; the first female humorist; the first elected female senator--``widow woman'' Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-Arkansas), who won a special election in 1933 to serve out her husband's term. There are also tales of the first black clergyman to preach to a white congregation and of the inventor of chewing gum. Fun to read, the book offers numerous interesting footnotes to the story of our past. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Jan.)