Elizabeth Peabody Essay

Teacher and educational reformer, founder of the kindergarten in America, abolitionist, opponent of European autocratic despotism, friend of political refugees, advocate of Native American rights and education, of woman’s suffrage, and of world peace, Miss Peabody worked unceasingly toward the improvement of society. In the 1840s, she ran a circulating library and bookstore at 13 West Street in Boston, providing the Transcendentalists (see previous article on Transcendentalism here) with a gathering place and with volumes of foreign literature and philosophy. Margaret Fuller conducted her famous “conversations” at 13 West Street. The Brook Farm utopian community was planned there. Moreover, Elizabeth Peabody was a publisher at a time when few women were involved in that business. Among the titles issued under her name were Dr. William Ellery Channing’s Emancipation (1840), Hawthorne’s Grandfather’s Chair, Famous Old People, and Liberty Tree (1841), two of the four volumes of the Transcendental periodical the Dial (1842 and 1843), and the short-lived Aesthetic Papers (1849), which included the first appearance in print of Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Miss Peabody was also a gifted linguist, familiar with some dozen languages, and a prolific writer on education, reform, language, history, art, and other topics.

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