Historical Biography – The Peabody Sisters…by Megan Marshall

It is rewarding to read historical biography because it details the life of a person and how he or she was perceived by others. If diary entries are included, the reader gets a view of history as it was understood by the subject.  Local author and journalist Megan Marshall writes a superb historical biography, The Peabody Sisters:  Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism, which won three awards including the 2006 Massachusetts Book Award.

The preface begins, “During the first decade of the nineteenth century three sisters were born into a New England family down on its luck”(p. xv). The mother, Eliza Peabody, was a published poet. Elizabeth Peabody, the eldest sister, exhibited a great intellect and conversed with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Bronson Alcott.  Mary Peabody, the middle sister, was a beauty, a teacher extraordinaire who felt strong affection for the reformer Horace Mann.  Sophia Peabody was an artist in delicate health and was very much in love with the handsome Nathaniel Hawthorne whom she wished to marry. The American scene in which the sisters participated heralded the birth of the Transcendentalist Movement.

This reviewer is looking forward to reading Ms. Marshall’s recent biography of another famous woman of this same time period, Margaret Fuller.


Written by Reference Librarian Ellie. 3/31/14


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