Florence P. Simister (1913 – 1981)

Florence Parker Simister was an author, historian, and radio personality. Born on December 13, 1913 in Providence to George L. and Bertha Zinner Parker she attended the local public schools graduating from Classical High School in 1931. Following high school, she enrolled in extension courses at both Brown University and the University of Connecticut. Her aspiration of being a professional violinist were unrealized due to poor health.

Within three years of her high school graduation Florence was well on her way to her professional writing career. Soon she had short stories published in both the Evening Bulletin and the Writer’s Forum, a publication of Antioch College.

By the mid-1930s she joined the Script Players, a Providence East Side group that put on original plays. Always interested in the state’s history she wrote one play The Curious History of Betsey Bowen, a three-act play, first performed by the Script Players in 1941. Several of her plays won awards. It was also at the Script Players that she met her husband Robert H. Simister.

In 1948 Florence joined the staff at the Providence Public Library as a writer. One of her duties at the library was writing the script for a weekly radio show. Always interested in the history of her native state, in 1952 she originated and wrote the popular radio show “Streets of the City” that was broadcast on radio station WEAN. Each episode told the story of a street and its history, the show had a strong following and it ran for more than twenty years. Ultimately these radio stories resulted in books of the same name. First came Streets of the City: an anecdotal history of Providence in 1968, followed by Street of the City: an anecdotal history of Newport the following year and finally in 1974 Streets of the City: an anecdotal history of North Kingstown.

In addition to these books, Florence, a prolific author, wrote three children’s books, The Pewter Plate (1957), Girl with a Musket (1959) and Daniel and Drum Rock: The Adventures of a Huguenot Boy in Colonial Rhode Island (1963) as well as The First Hundred Years a centennial history of Rhode Island Hospital Trust National Bank, published in 1967and The Fire’s Center – Rhode Island in the Revolutionary Era, 1763 – 1790 published in 1979 by the Rhode Island Bicentennial Foundation.

Florence also wrote numerous articles that appeared in New England Galaxy, Yankee Magazine, Rhode Island Yearbook, Newport History, and the Rhode Islander.  In 1969 she received the Governor’s Award for her contributions to the arts in Rhode Island. When not busy with her own writing projects she assisted her husband in the operation of Simister’s Bookshop in Wickford.

Florence died on November 18, 1981 at Wickford and was survived by her husband and her mother.

Russell J. DeSimone

Scroll to Top