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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Rally for Puerto Rico — A year after Hurricane Maria

In West Palm Beach

Patricia with Luis Miranda, Jr., Founder of the Hispanic Federation

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Alexander Hamilton Women's History Month : Local History and Her Story

Article by Patricia Plantamura

Mary Anne Hamilton (left) with fans at Hamil*Fest

Fans of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father turned pop star, got to meet one of his actual family members at SPC-Gibbs Campus during at a recent event called Hamil*Fest. Yes, American history, and fittingly during Women's History Month “her story” lives among us in Mary Anne Hamilton, the widow of the great-great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton. The Seminole resident was a featured guest in February at this festival for fans of the man and the hit musical.

A retired real estate agent and mother of five, Mary Anne now finds herself in the role of goodwill ambassador who spreads Alexander’s story. As the world is discovering, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway play, Hamilton’s achievements have been considerably downplayed by most historians.

People of all ages are excited to hear Mary Anne speak, “ said Hamil*Fest organizer Greg Plantamura, “We’re very grateful that St. Pete College hosted our event as part of the local community.”

Mary Anne shared that she travelled to Alexander’s birthplace on Nevis most recently in January for the celebration of Alexander’s 261st birthday. Of her seven visits to Nevis, her first was on a yacht with her husband in 1966, at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth. 

Hamil*Fest organizer Greg Plantamura (left) with
Mary Anne Hamilton and Rand Scholet,
Founder of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society
Her late husband of 13 years, Laurens Morgan Hamilton, was named after John Laurens, Hamilton’s best friend, and also his grandfather, the famed financier and banker J.P. Morgan.

Alexander Hamilton migrated from the Island of Nevis to the British colonies in 1772 as an orphan and was labeled by society as “illegitimate”. If not for the immigrant Hamilton, the formation and groundwork laid for the U.S. Constitution, and our financial and judicial systems would not have taken present form.

Distinct contributions of immigrants, benefits of proficiencies in foreign languages, and often unacknowledged accomplishments of women were actually indispensable at the outset of our Country, even as today. U.S. history reflects the contributions of women such as Hamilton’s mother Rachel Faucette. Mary Anne explained that his mother spoke French to him at home in Nevis and “that is why he was so good dealing with Lafayette and the French Army during the Revolution”.

Also at Hamil*Fest, Mariana Oller, Chair of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society (a.k.a. “AHA”) attested to how critical France’s support was of the colonists in efforts against King George, which resulted in independence of the colonies from England. Oller noted the translation of military strategy and orders into French, which were used by French troops in military action. The value and necessity of Hamilton being multilingual are apparent from our Country’s very inception which was dependent literally upon command of more than one language.

(L to R) Dave Downey, Greg Plantamura, Mary Anne Hamilton,
and Rand Scholet were among the presenters at Hamil*Fest
George Washington himself recognized Hamilton as his right-hand man in words presented from original documents by panelist Oller. She read Washington’s written words from 1798: “Alexander Hamilton was my principle and most confidential aide.”  

Another speaker, Rand Scholet of Clearwater, President of AHA shared that before beginning his own in-depth research he questioned the importance of Hamilton’s contributions. Scholet noted that American history often gave more attention to the efforts of Thomas Jefferson. Through use of his background in computer analysis Scholet demonstrated the massive and enduring importance of Hamilton’s contributions in a fact-based comparison to six other Founding Fathers. Scholet expounded “In 1789, Hamilton took a nation deeply in debt from the Revolutionary War and developed financial strategies that created a bustling national economy such that our nation’s first budget surplus was realized by 1793, and our nation has never looked back.”

Hamil*Fest included a presentation by Michelle Luckett of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary District 7. Another speaker, Dave Downey, told of the Coast Guard Cutter named after Hamilton which was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1942. Downey detailed the story of the rescue of more than 200 American Coast Guardsmen by Icelandic civilian boats. In 2009 this Cutter was located by sonar and a conjoint international team submerged to place a memorial plaque on said ship.

There have been six Coast Guard Cutters named for Hamilton, one of which in 1978 took Mary Anne’s husband’s ashes out to sea. “My husband was at its christening in New Orleans … and when he died he wanted his ashes scattered in the Caribbean Sea so that they could float back to Nevis.” The Cutter happened to be in Jacksonville the next month so her husband’s wish was fulfilled.

There are a variety of reasons to respect Hamilton’s legacy and humanity. Scholet noted Hamilton’s role in educating indigenous people as Founding Trustee of Hamilton College for the Oneida Indians. He established the African Free School in NYC, and co-founded the New York State society for the manumission (freeing) of slaves. 

It is important to recognize the contributions of our forefathers and foremothers and particularly noteworthy to appreciate those among us who can relate those contributions to us first-hand. Plantamura enthusiastically shared, “In the words from the musical’s conclusion, Hamilton himself would be proud to know that Mary Anne keeps his flame and tells his story.”
Mary Anne Hamilton's family has a proud heritage.