Today we celebrate the 215th birthday of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, born in Billerica, MA on May 16, 1804. Her spirit is present at the Old Manse in many ways.
Elizabeth Peabody introduced her sister Sophia to Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1837, sparking a romance that would bring Sophia to marry Nathaniel five years later, in a ceremony performed at Elizabeth’s Boston bookshop. The newlyweds took up residence at the Old Manse that same day.
Even before the Hawthornes’ wedding, Elizabeth was a close colleague of another former Manse resident, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Her bookshop was an incubator for the Transcendentalist movement, a place where Emerson and others found inspiration and conversation, and she assumed the role of publisher for the Transcendentalists’ journal, “The Dial,” in 1841.
Biographer Megan Marshall writes that Peabody was "ready to cast her lot with the defiant." In 1849, she published the first printed appearance of Thoreau’s influential essay “Resistance to Civil Government” (known to modern readers as “Civil Disobedience”).
Respected in her lifetime as an author, editor, publisher, and bookseller, Peabody is now remembered as a pioneering educator. In the 1830s, she provided the academic underpinnings for Bronson Alcott’s experimental Temple School. In 1860, she opened the first kindergarten in the United States, and promoted the establishment of kindergartens nationwide in a book co-authored with her sister Mary Peabody Mann, “Moral Culture of Infancy and Kindergarten Guide.”
When her long and remarkable life came to an end in 1894, she was laid to rest less than half a mile from the Old Manse, in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
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Image: Elizabeth Peabody at mid-life, albumen print from William Taylor Newton’s extra-illustrated copy of James Elliot Cabot’s “A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson” (1887)
Image source: Used by permission of William Munroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library (Newton/Emerson Collection, Gift of Edith Emerson Forbes and Edward Waldo Emerson, 1918.)