United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
First District Northern Region
Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts & Rhode Island

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Sector Boston Honors Sally Snowman, Boston Light Keeper

Boston Light Keeper, Sally Snowman admires the Fresnel Lens at Boston Light
Boston Light Keeper, Sally Snowman, admires the Fresnel Lens at Boston Light  USCG Photo

March 12, 2021  In honor of Women's History Month, we will be sharing the stories of just a few of the Coast Guard's significant women.

Today we kick off our post about Boston Light, hailed as the nation's first and oldest lighthouse station, being over 300 years old and still in operation. A singular lighthouse and its unique keeper, Ms. Sally Snowman is the Coast Guard's last resident lighthouse keeper, still actively serving in this prestigious duty for over 16 years. She is the 70th keeper of Boston Light, but she is also the first woman in the Light's history to assume the duties and responsibilities. To her, this isn't a job as it is a lifestyle; she is an expert on the history of Boston Light, its design and mechanics, and even the clothing style from the history period. Did you know that the original lighthouse was built in 1716, but was destroyed by the British in 1776? The lighthouse that stands today was built in 1783, and still shines it light over 27 miles away, guiding ships safely in to Boston Harbor. But the history remains with the island and with its keeper.

Sally was born in Weymouth, MA, where as a child, her parents often visited the islands of Boston Harbor. Her first visit to Boston Light was when she was 10 years old and she fell in love with the place. After graduating from college, Sally earned a Ph.D. and previously worked as a learning disabilities specialist. However, she joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary and began volunteering at Boston Light for many years. Through her Auxiliary service, she met her future husband, Jay Thompson, and they have remained happily married.

In 2003, Sally Snowman was named the new lighthouse keeper for Boston Light, having become the first civilian keeper since 1941. More historically, she is the first woman in the lighthouse's long history as a keeper, since its creation in 1716. Throughout their years together at Boston Light, Sally and her husband dedicated over five years of research about the lighthouse, and published the book "Boston Light: A Historical Perspective" (published in 1999); it is now considered the most extensive book ever published on America's first light station.

Prior to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Sally would frequently maintain the beautiful Fresnel lens and happily greet visitors during island tours. While donning a period-dress attire, she would speak to and educate the public about the lighthouse, its history and its significance to Boston. Sally had overseen the Coast Guard Auxiliary's Watchstander program, supervising dozens of volunteers who would spend shifts on the island helping with maintenance and public tours. However, the Lighthouse is currently closed to the public due to the global pandemic and ongoing maintenance following recent winter storms.

For her efforts, Sally earned the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF) "Keeper of the Light" award in 2016, an honor to those individuals and organizations in the national lighthouse community who have contributed in a significant manner to the preservation of America's lighthouses and their rich heritage.

It is said that when sailors were coming from afar after a treacherous journey, the light from a lighthouse was usually the first glimmer of civilization, and the lighthouse keeper was often the first person to greet them as they passed by. Ms. Sally Snowman still embodies this proud legacy as a living historian and a shining light as a role model.

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Aerial View of Boston Light & Little Brewster Island

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