Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Selections from the State Library's Collection of Legislative Papers

This display showcases the careers of four Massachusetts legislators: Senator Jack Backman of Brookline, Representative Barbara Gray of Framingham, Representative Barbara Gardner of Holliston, and Senator Edward Kirby of Whitman. A state legislator's work is divided between issues that concern their constituencies and issues that face the entire state. The papers you see here represent both aspects of the legislator's careers. In some cases, a legislator adopts an issue that concerns everyone in the state, like Edward Kirby's efforts to increase mandatory testing for the AIDS virus. In others, a legislator does work to help one single constituent solve a problem, like Jack Backman's work on behalf of a family besieged by grackles. Finally, sometimes a legislator's work can begin in his or her district, but then go on to influence policies on a larger stage, like Barbara Gray's advocacy for prison inmates at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Framingham. Each of the stories told by these documents explores a different aspect of a legislator's career.

Senator Jack Backman
Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1965-1970, 13th Norfolk District
Massachusetts Senate, 1971-1987, Norfolk and Suffolk District (1971-1974), 3rd Middlesex and Norfolk District (1975-1978), 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk District

Brookline High School
These selections from Backman's constituent correspondence file show the work he did on behalf of Brookline High School to improve bus service.

A Bird Problem
In 1970, Senator Backman helped a Brookline family with an avian infestation.

Tenants' Rights
Senator Backman worked throughout his career to improve tenants' rights. The bill below passed in 1970.

Representative Barbara Gray
Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1973-1996, 56th Middlesex District (1973-1978), 6th Middlesex District (1979-1996).

Prisoners' Rights
Representative Gray focused on the rights of prisoners in state correctional institutions, particularly the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Framingham. These materials document her work. Correspondence highlights the issues faced by inmates and the relationship that Gray formed with this population. Notes from Gray's 1995 visit to MCI Framingham show how carefully she studied the lives of inmates. And finally, with H2293, Gray fought to provide better facilities for prisoners.

Representative Barbara Gardner
Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1988-2000, 8th Middlesex District

Sexual Misconduct
Sexual abuse by care providers was a central issue for Gardner. These materials document her work on legislation designed to prevent and punish abuse by mental health and health care providers.

Domestic Violence
Representative Gardner was involved throughout her term in office with efforts to protect citizens from domestic violence.

  • Notes on domestic violence, probably taken by Gardner for debate on a bill: page one, page two, page three.

  • Document from the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators describing the trajectory of domestic violence legislation in the late 20th century: page one, page two.

Senator Edward Kirby
Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1960-1966,5th Plymouth District
Massachusetts Senate, 1981-1992, 2nd Plymouth District

Mandatory AIDS Testing
Senator Kirby was active in the effort to increase mandatory AIDS testing, especially for couples applying for a marriage license. The bill never passed, although Kirby sponsored it in multiple sessions.

Kingston Police Officers
"Ned" Kirby was a beloved figure in his district for decades, fighting to improve infrastructure and education in the South Shore. In this letter, a Kingston town employee thanks Kirby for his help with H6408 of 1989, which improved police service in the town.