Looking Back At Women’s History in Everett
Editor’s Note: The following is the first in a month-long series about noteworthy women in Everett, taken from vignettes written by former City Clerk Michael Matarazzo in his book ‘They Came from Everett.’ The histories of many women of Everett are stunning, with women playing a role in so many early parts of the formation of the country.
One of a kind; there really is no other way to describe Rose LeCours. Known far and wide as Rosie the Cabdriver, she was a wife, mother, City official and the first female cab owner in the City of Boston.
Rose Hadad was born on August 24, 1907, to George and Annie (Asar) Hadad. The family lived on Hudson Street in Boston near South Station. Hudson Street on one side of Stuart Street was in the heart of Chinatown. On the other side, however, Hudson Street and the immediate area was comprised mainly of Lebanese families like George and Annie Hadad.
The Hadads (later Haddad), like many immigrant families at that time, struggled to makes ends meet and feeling that they were not able to properly care for Rose, sent her to live with a family in Woburn.
Sometime around 1930, Rose, who was working as a stitcher in a dress-making company, moved to her uncle’s house, also on Hudson Street, to care for her sickly uncle Elias “Louis” and help him operate his local variety store, also located on Hudson Street.
Rose later met and married Harry A. LeCours of Cambridge, and moved to Compton Street which was a street in the Castle Square Area of Boston near the Benjamin Franklin Institute. It was while living on Compton Street that their only child, Harry, Jr., was born.
Harry, Sr. was a parking attendant at a local garage and in addition to selling noisemakers on Washington Street on New Year’s Eve and selling Christmas Trees during the holidays, Rose was working there too. Working at the garage did not pay well, but put Rose in contact with many of the local taxi drivers and sparked her interest for increasing her income by driving cab. In 1941, Rose approached Town Taxi for a job as a cab driver and they hired her.
For the next seven years, Rose would work for Town Taxi and then Yellow Cab; supporting her family by driving passengers through the streets of Boston and beyond. When not in school, Harry, Jr. would often sit up front with his mother as she plied her trade.
The year 1948 was a monumental year for Rose and her family. While acting as the primary breadwinner for her family, Rose managed to save enough money, about $6,000 to $7,000, to buy her own taxi medallion and a 1941 Dodge. Police Commissioner Tom Sullivan decided that she had earned her opportunity and approved the sale, making Rosie the first woman in Boston to own her own medallion.
Also in 1948, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts released its Master Highway Plan for the Boston Metropolitan Area. The plan called for the construction of an elevated highway that would eventually run between Hudson and Albany streets.
As a family, Rose, her husband Harry and their son Harry, Jr., had lived on Hudson since at least 1933 and now with the impending construction of the Expressway, the building in which they lived would no longer be in a neighborhood but would be an abutter to an expressway. The family now needed to find a new place to live, and when Rosie’s relatives informed her of an available apartment on Fuller Street in Everett, the LeCours family jumped at the opportunity to move to this strictly residential area. While their neighborhood in Boston was coming to end, the legend of Rosie LeCours in Everett was just beginning.
Every day, Rose would drive her cab from Miller Street in Everett to South Station, which would become the home base of her taxi routes. Hour after hour she would depart South Station en route to Logan Airport or elsewhere only to return thereafter to the same station. Her passengers were businessmen, movie stars, prominent politicians or simply families returning from vacation or taking a trip to grandma’s house. As the family’s breadwinner, Rose never enjoyed the trips that many of her fares were headed to or returning from.
Rosie’s hard work, professionalism and no-nonsense attitude earned her the respect of her fellow drivers, law enforcement and the general public and she was accorded the honors of being the first person to drive through the South Station tunnel when it opened in 1959, was the first motorist to drive over the Amesbury’s Deer Island Bridge (with Governor John Volpe as her passenger), and was the only taxi in the procession that inaugurated the Turnpike Extension. In 1962, Rosie’s colleagues named her the “Cab Driver of the Year” and with her fellow drivers, she was one of the founders of the Boston Taxi Driver’s Scholarship Fund, of which she also served as President.
When Harry, Jr. got married in 1961, Rosie continued to drive taxi but significantly cut down on her hours – driving only three or four hours per day. Six years later, she would make her first venture into local Everett politics.
At the time, Everett had the only municipal bicameral legislature left in the United States with an upper branch, the Board of Aldermen, and the lower branch called the Common Council.
In 1967, she ran for a seat on the Common Council from the city’s largest area, Ward Three. Since three members are elected from each ward, six candidates would survive from that year’s preliminary. Rose finished ninth in the field of 11 and was eliminated in the preliminary.
Not one to give up easily, Rosie was back at it again in 1969 and this time she made the cut in the preliminary finishing in the sixth and final slot but finished fifth in the final – just five votes shy of fourth place.
Two years later the persistent Rosie was back again. In the 1971 preliminary she finished tied for third out of seven candidates, but in the final fell to 5th place.
There were seven candidates again in the 1973 preliminary and Rose finished second. This time she held on and on election night Dec. 6, 1973 she finished second to become the first female Common Councilor in the history of the City of Everett.
Prior to the 1977 election wards were not equal in population but that changed for the ’77 election and with ward lines more favorable to Rose, she topped the ticket for Common Councilor Ward Three.
As a councilor, Rosie always put the needs and concerns of senior citizens first and for the next 18 years, she was one of the top vote-getters as “her seniors,” as she called them, always came out for her in big numbers.
Just two days before the 1987 election, Harry passed away from cancer. Rose retained her seat finishing a strong third, but preparing for Harry’s funeral on the 5th took precedence over any celebration.
Rosie swept to victory over the next three elections; including her 1993 election, when she announced that she was retiring from driving cab after 52 years on the job. She faced no preliminary opponents in 1995 and in the final election Rosie lost – finishing fourth by seven votes. Hurt but not discouraged, she was back in 1997 winning her seat back with a third place finish by 83 votes. In 1999 she bettered her finish from two years prior finishing second, but in 2001 she finished disappointing sixth out of six.
Rose would never run again.
On July 29, 2007, Rosie died. Mourners from across the Commonwealth came to pay respect to this pioneer. Her fellow members of the Garden Club and Auxiliary Police Force stood in line to say good-bye and for the first time, members of the Everett City government formed an honor guard and lined the pathway as her coffin was taken from Ward’s Funeral Home to her final resting place; a tradition that is still practiced today.
Rosie LeCours was the first once again; for the last time.