Shaw, Joseph Coolidge, 1821-1851

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Joseph Coolidge Shaw, SJ was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 22, 1821, to Robert G. Shaw, a Boston merchant, and his wife Elizabeth (Parkman) Shaw. Raised a Unitarian, he entered Harvard College in 1836 and studied languages, before graduating in the class of 1840. Following graduation, Shaw spent time furthering his education in Europe and, on a trip to Rome, met Frederick William Faber. Faber was part of the Oxford movement which sought to renew the Church of England through a revival of Catholic doctrine and practice. After meeting Faber, Shaw was introduced to Thomas Glover, SJ, a Jesuit residing in Rome, and soon after converted to Catholicism in 1843. After returning to Boston, Shaw decided to leave Harvard Law School, and returned to Rome to study for the priesthood. After three years of study, Shaw came back to Boston in 1847, and was ordained a Catholic priest by Bishop Fitzpatrick at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

In 1850, Shaw entered the Novitiate of the Jesuits in Frederick, Maryland, but contracted tuberculosis and died March 10, 1851. Prior to his death, he was able to take his vows and joined the Society of Jesus on March 4. In his will, Shaw left a significant portion of his life insurance for a college to be established in Boston by the Jesuits, and donated his nearly 2,000-volume library to the same school, as deemed appropriate. The school, which was not yet established, would be Boston College, which opened in the South End of the city in September 1864. About 350 volumes from Shaw's library formed a significant portion of the original Boston College library. Additionally, the Shaw House on the Chestnut Hill campus, dedicated in 1962, houses 20 freshmen who take part in the Shaw Leadership Program.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Walter J. Meagher, SJ papers Boston College. John J. Burns Library
creatorOf Lawrence, James, 1821-1875. Letters to James Lawrence, 1835-1855 Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Portraits, ca. 1852-ca. 2004 Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Cabot family. Papers, 1786-1945 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1761-1904 (inclusive), 1820-1888 (bulk) Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith HUGH CABOT FAMILY family
associatedWith Lawrence, James, 1821-1875 person
correspondedWith Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882 person
associatedWith Meagher, Walter J. person
auntOrUncleOf Shaw, Robert Gould, 1837-1863 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Rome 07 IT
Boston MA US
Boston College
Catholic Church


Birth 1821-01-22

Death 1851-03-10



Ark ID: w6c0084b

SNAC ID: 43511359