Sector Boston Honors Sally
Snowman, Boston Light Keeper
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
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.
USCG Sector Boston is on