Maria Richards Oakey Dewing

October 1, 2017

American Painter Maria Richards Oakey was born on October 27, 1845 in New York City.  Although she originally grappled with the choice of pursuing writing or painting when she was a young adult, Maria eventually chose to study at the Cooper Union School of Design for Women in New York City where she learned to paint in oil and watercolor. After her time at the Cooper Union, she went on to study art for another four years at the National Academy of Design, also in New York City.  In 1875 Oakey joined fellow Academy students in establishing the Art Students League, which provided a cosmopolitan and progressive alternative to studying art compared to the traditionalism offered at the Academy. (more…)

Joyce Chen (1917 – 1994)

September 6, 2017

By Helen and Stephen Chen

Celebrated restaurateur, cookbook author, culinary television personality, and entrepreneur Joyce Chen was born in Beijing, China on September 14, 1917 and grew up in a highly-regarded family in Jiangsu Jiading, a suburb of Shanghai. She was the youngest in a family of nine children and acquired her English name from her school teacher, who gave her the name Joyce because she was always joyful.

As recounted in her cookbook, the Joyce Chen Cook Book, Chen was always interested in cooking and was encouraged by her mother to learn from the family chef so she “wouldn’t eat raw rice…”

Chen fled the communist regime in 1949 with her husband, Thomas, and their two small children. On the recommendation from Chen’s relative, a Harvard-educated Chinese journalist, they settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, living first on Kirkland Street and a few years later on Alpine Street near Fresh Pond. Soon Chinese graduate students from Harvard, MIT, and Boston University flocked to Chen’s family home to socialize and enjoy the cuisine of Shanghai and Beijing that they missed in America. (more…)

William Brewster (1851-1919)

June 24, 2017

Born in Wakefield, Massachusetts, William Brewster was born on July 5, 1851, and went on to become a noted ornithologist.

A descendant of Massachusetts pilgrims, Brewster was educated in the Cambridge public school system and spent his childhood observing birds. He had planned to attend Harvard College, but his weak eyesight and poor health deterred him from pursuing a career in business. He instead studied ornithology and practiced taxidermy, the evidence of which can be seen at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Brewster recorded the diverse bird life in Cambridge, Concord, and greater New England, collecting local and international specimens. He helped organize the Nuttall Ornithological Club (1873) and the American Ornithologists’ Union (1883), serving as president for both groups. He later served as the first president of the Massachusetts Audubon Society following its formation in 1896.