praise for the book

“John Simmons was a man truly ahead of his time and Denise Doherty Pappas’ book about this amazing person gives us a close look into his life and the trail he blazed. Simmons had tremendous insight into the human soul and I wish he was around today because there is so much we could all learn from him. John Simmons was a man truly ahead of his time and Denise Doherty Pappas’ book about this amazing person gives us a close look into his life and the trail he blazed.”

~ Billie Jean King, 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

john simmons


“It is gratifying to know that Simmons College founder John Simmons, one of Boston’s most talented, successful, and influential 19th century men, was among the first to recognize the same potential in women. Pappas’ book is a fascinating look at the man, his milieu, and the way he laid a path to higher education for generations of women in his family—and my own!”

~ Joyce Kulhawik, Emmy Award-winning Arts & Entertainment Critic/ Simmons class of 1974

“A self-made man who pioneered ready-to-wear clothing in the early 19th century, John Simmons led a life of both luxury and personal misfortune. Shockingly for the times, he left his considerable fortune not to his family, but to found one of the country’s first all-female colleges in memory of the downtrodden female seamstresses who helped make him rich. Pappas chronicles the story of this visionary’s rise against a backdrop of history-making Boston luminaries, reformers, and activists.”

~ Tina Sutton, author of The Making of Markova: Diaghilev’s Baby Ballerina to Goundbreaking Icon

“Written with the same combination of imagination, perseverance and compassion that marked the life of John Simmons, Denise Pappas’ biography of the far-sighted man who reinvented the clothing business, and founded Simmons College, is also a keen and thoughtful cultural portrait of America in the middle decades of the 19th century. It will stand as Simmons’ definitive biography.”

~ J. Michael Lennon, author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life

“I came to this biography out of school spirit, and perhaps a sense of duty, but what I found from the first page was an engrossing, beautifully written social history—not just of the self-made, compassionate John Simmons but of his world, its minds and its hearts.”

~ Elinor Lipman, novelist and essayist, author of The Inn at Lake Devine, Then She Found Me, The Family Man