His father, Patrick Joseph, was a prosperous saloonkeeper. Patrick also was active in Boston politics, as Irish ward boss, a five time state representative, and state senator. Kennedy's parents were anxious for their son to succeed, however in the Boston social environment of the time, success was difficult to achieve for people of their Irish-Catholic background. It was Kennedy's mother, Mary Augusta, who decided that her son should be called Joseph Patrick rather than Patrick Joseph, after his father. She feared that "Patrick Kennedy" sounded "too Irish." Mary Augusta believed that in elitist Brahmin Boston, being Irish and Catholic would obstruct entry into "better" society.
Mary arranged for her son to work for a millinery shop, delivering hats to affluent women. She instructed her son that, if asked his name, to reply simply "Joseph," so as to avoid drawing attention to his ethnic background. Both parents were aware that entry to the higher levels of Boston society dictated that Kennedy mix with those outside his Irish community. They sent their son to Catholic schools for his early education, but when he was older he attended Boston Latin School and Harvard University, to be educated with Boston's elite Protestant families.
Although Kennedy made a few friends at Harvard, especially among the minority of Irish students there, and was popular with young Irish women, Kennedy never was accepted by a majority of the students---anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiment was strong. One friend warned Kennedy to be very careful in his... [continues]
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