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1804 -1894

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody is best known for her associations with the Transcendentalists and her work with educational reform. She was a strong and independent woman during a time when it was still very difficult for women to compete with men in an intellectual or social setting.

Her educational reform centered around a number of schools which she founded or was an intregal part of from 1820~1836. This included a school she began in Lancaster, Massachusetts and another in Boston. She also helped Amos Bronson Alcott with his school, called the Temple School in Boston. From this experience came one of her early publications: Record of a School. She worked with Alcott again from 1879 to 1884 in his Concord School of Philosophy. This school was an experiment in adult education.

In 1859 Elizabeth Peabody came across the ideas of German educator Friedrich Froebel. His work with preschool-aged children and beliefs about activities in the classroom inspired Peabody. In 1860 she established the first formally organized American kindergarten in Boston. She championed the cause of kindergartens in every school, and eventually the cause was taken up by others. The original ideals were unfortunately not maintained, but the institution of kindergarten is now firmly established.

In 1839 Peabody opened the West Street bookstore. This bookstore became a gathering place for the intellectuals of Boston. These of course included the Trancendentalists, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, James Freeman Clarke, Theodore Parker and Jones Very. It also included her brother-in-law, author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Peabody is also sometimes credited with being the first woman book publisher in the United States. From her own press came translations by Margaret Fuller, three of Nathaniel Hawthorne's earliest books, and a Transcendentalist journal named Aesthetic Papers. Her own published works, besides Record of a School, include articles for Dial and other periodicals.

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was an incredibly active woman. Her work in educational reform is still present today. She also worked for various other causes during her lifetime, including antislavery, Spiritualism and even the Paiute Indians.

Works Referenced

Concord Magazine. "Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Transcendentalist Activist." June/July 1999. http://www.concordma.com/magazine/junjuly99/peabody.html

Amos Bronson Alcott Network. "Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 1804-1894." http://www.alcott.net/alcott/home/champions/Peabody.html

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