November 4, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism

The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism

Megan Marshall

Language: English

Pages: 624

ISBN: 0618711694

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia Peabody were in many ways our American Brontes. The story of these remarkable sisters — and their central role in shaping the thinking of their day — has never before been fully told. Twenty years in the making, Megan Marshall's monumental biograpy brings the era of creative ferment known as American Romanticism to new life. Elizabeth, the oldest sister, was a mind-on-fire thinker. A powerful influence on the great writers of the era — Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau among them — she also published some of their earliest works. It was Elizabeth who prodded these newly minted Transcendentalists away from Emerson's individualism and toward a greater connection to others. Mary was a determined and passionate reformer who finally found her soul mate in the great educator Horace Mann. The frail Sophia was a painter who won the admiration of the preeminent society artists of the day. She married Nathaniel Hawthorne — but not before Hawthorne threw the delicate dynamics among the sisters into disarray. Marshall focuses on the moment when the Peabody sisters made their indelible mark on history. Her unprecedented research into these lives uncovered thousands of letters never read before as well as other previously unmined original sources. The Peabody Sisters casts new light on a legendary American era. Its publication is destined to become an event in American biography.

This book is highly recommended for students and reading groups interested in American history, American literature, and women's studies. It is a wonderful look into 19th-century life.

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consecutively, which leads of itself to expression,” Elizabeth wrote. In response to their compositions, Alcott promised no “petty criticism” of spelling, grammar, or punctuation, which he believed caused young children to “suppress their own thoughts.” Instead he prompted them to think more deeply by asking ever more probing questions. Alcott’s morning dialogues and journal-writing sessions flowed easily into Elizabeth’s afternoon lessons on more conventional academic subjects in which, she

railroad line to transport the enormous blocks of granite from quarries south of the city to barges that floated them across the bay to Charlestown; funds repeatedly ran dry and work was halted while ladies’ benefit fairs and other fundraising campaigns were waged. In the end, the Bunker Hill Monument Association was forced to sell off most of the ten-acre battle site as house lots to pay for the imposing spire. Now on June 17, 1843, the sixty-eighth anniversary of the first pitched battle of

creator. Eliza’s Belinda spoke up for the in tellectual and spiritual dignity of women in language not so different from that used by Mary Wollstonecraft in her 1792 Vindication of the Rights of Women, just beginning to gain a following in the United States. Wollstonecraft, too, was concerned with releasing women from charges of vanity and ignorance. In her poem, Eliza echoed Wollstonecraft’s directive that women reject the low standards for female behavior that men held for them and instead

until she becomes a woman. And then too, when she will write of music, art, literature, politics, and travel for a nation of readers. She takes her father’s cue, embraces the discipline: she refuses to be mediocre, to be obscure. The seven-year-old girl must stop writing this second letter, however, a letter that announces her intellect to her father even by way of apology, because her mother—Margarett Crane Fuller—has asked her to “hold the baby,” a new little brother, William Henry, the second

worded hint that she might one day give up the life of suffering she had chosen. He was not, he wrote, “enamoured of martyrdom in my friends,” and he repeatedly assured her that “in your case . . . disease has made no conquest” and “eventually you must do well.” For a New Englander, Channing had a touch of the hedonist and was given to issuing statements of his personal philosophy. One observation that Sophia recorded in her journal must have struck her, in the hard-pressed Peabody household, as

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