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Little Rhody's official name is "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," and therein lies a tale...


In the 1600s, when New England was being colonized by Europeans, the best solution to a community conflict was for the weaker of the conflicting parties to shove off into the wilderness and found their own community.

To save his skin and freely express his beliefs, Roger Williams left Puritan Salem (MA) in 1636 and came to Narragansett Bay, followed soon afterward by others who shared his views, or at least knew they would be allowed to disagree.

Williams was ahead of the times in his political, religious, and ethical thinking, and his contribution to the American democratic tradition is very important: in his new community of Providence, citizens could think and say what they liked.

In the years that followed the founding of Providence, Williams persuaded Parliament to include the settlements of Portsmouth and Newport on Rhode Island with his own Providence Plantation under the same charter—these towns had also been founded by dissenters who desired freedom of thought and speech—thus securing to the colony as a whole the right of absolute liberty in matters of belief.

Today Rhode Island is a manufacturing center, a maritime state, with a lot of rich agricultural land and several important industries.

But the summer vacationers who come to Rhode Island—beginning with the enormously wealthy socialites who started the custom in the 19th century—are also an important part of the economy, and the state government does a lot to see that "Little Rhodie" retains the lure it had for those discriminating types who built palatial mansions in Newport, Watch Hill, and other coastal towns.

May is officially celebrated as Heritage Month in Rhode Island, commemorating that Rhode Island was the first colony to declare independence from British rule (May 4, 1776).

On May 1, or thereabouts, May Day Breakfasts are held by all sorts of church, civic, and fraternal organizations across the state, and the public is invited to most of them. These can be pretty lavish affairs, and you're sure to get your money's worth.

—by Tom Brosnahan

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  Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan


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Newport, Rhode Island's first
and most important trading port.



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