Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 1804-1894

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was one of nineteenth-century America's most important Transcendental writers and educational reformers. Peabody's ceaseless devotion to education was both broad and practical. She saw the classroom as mediating between the needs of the individual and the claims of society. In 1820 she opened a private school in Lancaster, Massachusetts, and two years later another in Boston. She opened another school in 1825 in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she made the acquaintance of W.E. Channing, with whom she developed a notable intellectual intimacy. From 1825 to 1834, she served informally as Channing's secretary. In 1834 she assisted Bronson Alcott in establishing his radical Temple School in Boston. Her Record of a School (1835), based on her journal of Alcott's methods and daily interactions with the children, helped establish Alcott as a leading educator and thinker.

In 1839, she opened her West Street bookstore, which became a gathering place for the intellectual community of Boston, and the distribution point of foreign literature. Her printing press, and published translations from German by Margaret Fuller and three of Hawthorne's earliest books. She published and wrote articles for The Dial, and, in 1849 published a single number of a Transcendentalist journal, Aesthetic Papers, which contained, among other essays, Thoreau's "Resistance to Civil Government."

Inspired by Friedrich Froebel's kindergarten work in Germany, she opened the nation's first formal kindergarten in Boston (1860), wrote numerous books concerning kindergarten education, and founded the Kindergarten Messenger (1873-75). From 1879 to 1884, she was a lecturer at Alcott's famous Concord School of Philosophy. She published Reminiscences of Reverend William Ellery Channing, D.D. (1880) and Last Evening with Allston (1886). Committed to a liberal Christianity that stressed the need for historical knowledge to balance the Transcendentalist's focus on individual intuition, Peabody championed antislavery, European liberal revolutions, Spiritualism, and, in her last years, the Paiute Indians.

Letter from Elizabeth Peabody to Rebecca Amory Lowell, June 2, 1837
Letter from Elizabeth Peabody to Rebecca Amory Lowell, May 1, 1840



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