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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 549

Papers of Mary Peabody, 1883-1997 (inclusive), 1904-1981 (bulk)


Papers of Mary Peabody, member of the Peabody family of Massachusetts, activist, and civic volunteer.


  • Creation: 1883-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1904-1981

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted, except that individual items throughout the collection are closed as noted to protect personal privacy.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Peabody is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


13.3 linear feet ((25 file boxes, 3 folio boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 3 oversized folders, 38 photograph folders, 8 folio photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 2 folio photograph boxes)

This collection documents the life of Mary Peabody. Material related to her extended family, including her mother, Mary Frances Parkman (known as Frances), husband, children, siblings Edith, Penelope, Henry--known as "Harry"--and Francis, and in-laws is also included, as is material related to her arrest in St. Augustine, Florida, and her other activism. The collection includes diaries, correspondence, clippings, and photographs. Much of the correspondence was not in folders, though many groupings of related letters were found bundled together and in labeled plastic bags. The processor maintained the existing arrangement whenever it could be discerned. The majority of the folder headings were created by the processor; those created by Peabody or her family appear in quotation marks.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1895-1990, n.d. (#1.1-9.7), is arranged in the three subseries described below.

Subseries A, Biographical, 1916, 1922, 1952-1990, n.d. (#1.1-1.12), includes interviews of Mary Peabody and of friends speaking about her, awards, clippings, obituaries, and other biographical information.

Subseries B, Personal, 1895, 1903-1980, n.d. (#1.13-4.2), includes a a sketch of Mary Peabody as an infant, a lock of her hair, and her first piece of needlework, followed by a topical listing arranged alphabetically: education (grade reports, notes, and other), financial (bills, receipts, and ledgers), travel (passports and itineraries), and other miscellaneous items.

Subseries C, Diaries and calendars, 1899-1979, n.d. (#4.3-9.7), includes diaries covering most of Mary Peabody's life. Topics include travel (with details of Peabody's trip around the world and of a trip with Malcolm Peabody to missions in the West Indies), studies, social events, and family life. The November 8, 1911, entry reports attending an anti-suffrage meeting and the 1964 diary relates Peabody's experiences in St. Augustine. Some diaries have letters, telegrams, Valentines, clippings, theater playbills, pictures, ship passenger lists, and other items pasted or inserted into them. The first three diaries (1899-1900) are in French.

Series II, PEABODY AND PARKMAN FAMILIES, 1891-1997, n.d. (#9.8-17.13), includes the three subseries described below.

Subseries A, Family correspondence, 1891-1981, n.d. (#9.8-14.2), contains Mary Peabody's correspondence with her mother, siblings, children, and other family members; some correspondence among her relatives is also included. The subseries is arranged with poems written for Mary Peabody appearing first, followed by her correspondence with her grandfather, mother, husband, children, and other relations, and by correspondence among other family members. Topics include Peabody's travels, her experiences raising her children, her children's marriages, and other family events. Also of note are Henry "Harry" Parkman's letters to his mother, in which he reports his intention to marry a woman of whom his parents did not approve. (The bulk of Mary and Malcolm Peabody's correspondence with their daughter Marietta Tree can be found in the Marietta Tree Papers, MC 539.)

Subseries B, Malcolm Peabody, 1912-1974, n.d. (#14.3-15.4), includes several diaries by Malcolm Peabody, including those he kept during World War I; materials related to the various churches which he served; his autobiography; and materials about his funeral. The subseries is arranged with the diaries appearing first, followed by other folders arranged chronologically. See #28FB.1v and #29FB.1v for scrapbooks on Peabody's service as a chaplain, his studies in England and travels in Europe before his marriage; see #OD.3 for diplomas.

Subseries C, Family papers, 1892-1997, n.d. (#15.5-17.13), is arranged with materials pertaining to Peabody's parents and siblings appearing first, followed by material on her children, granddaughter Frances FitzGerald, in-laws, and more distant relatives. The material related to Malcolm Peabody's sisters Elizabeth and Margery, who lived together for many years, is particularly extensive, including correspondence, a school yearbook, and address books. Of particular note are a diary kept by Frances Parkman and poems that Peabody wrote about her parents and family. Family correspondence can be found in Series II, Subseries A

Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1902-1981, n.d. (#18.1-21.9), consists primarily of letters received by Mary Peabody and is arranged chronologically. Several folders include letters of congratulation upon her engagement to Malcolm Peabody. The majority of correspondence concerning her activities in St. Augustine is located in Series IV, Subseries A, but some related letters are also located in this series. Correspondence with family members is in Series II, Subseries A.

Series IV, ACTIVISM AND CHARITY WORK, 1942-1980, n.d. (#21.10-25.11), contains material related to Mary Peabody's trip to St. Augustine, Florida, and her involvement with organizations such as Americans for Middle East Understanding and the Northeast Harbor Village Improvement Society.

Subseries A, St. Augustine, Florida, 1964-1968, 1979, n.d. (#21.10-24.11), is related to Mary Peabody's trip to St. Augustine in April 1964, and her subsequent arrest there. The subseries includes essays by Mary Peabody and Hester Campbell, and letters Mary Peabody received after her arrest, expressing both positive and negative reactions; letters addressed to Malcolm Peabody and to Endicott "Chub" Peabody, who was governor of Massachusetts at the time, are also included. The subseries also includes clippings, many of which were sent to Mary Peabody from throughout the country, sometimes with notations. See #30FB.1v for a scrapbook of related clippings. The series is arranged with writings and speeches by Peabody appearing first, followed by correspondence.

Subseries B, Other activism and charity work, 1942-1980, n.d. (#24.12-25.11), includes material on a number of organizations with which Mary Peabody was involved. The subseries documents her activities on behalf of young people and her concern for the rights of minorities. In addition, her role as chair of the Women's Auxiliary of the Episcopal Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is documented here. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Series V, PHOTOGRAPHS AND OVERSIZED,1883-1979, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.39, 26FB.1v-30FB.1v, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.3), is arranged in the two subseries described below.

Subseries A, Photographs, 1883-1976, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.39, 26FB.1v-27FB.1v), contains photographs of Mary Peabody, including some taken at the time of her arrest in St. Augustine and others commemorating her 80th birthday party. Photographs of her husband and other family members and friends are included, as are photograph albums related to Peabody's travels.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*]. The majority of the photographs in this subseries will be cataloged, but some folders include uncataloged photographs.

Subseries B, Oversized, 1910-1979, n.d. (#28FB.1v-30FB.1v, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.3), includes awards received by Mary Peabody, Malcolm Peabody's college degrees, and scrapbooks related to Malcolm Peabody's chaplaincy during World War I and Mary Peabody's activities in St. Augustine.


Mary Parkman Peabody, the eldest of five children of Henry Parkman and Mary Frances (Parker) Parkman, was born on July 24, 1891, in Beverly, Massachusetts. She attended the Winsor School in Boston, Massachusetts, and Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut. In 1912, after inheriting money from an uncle, she embarked on a trip around the world with two friends and a chaperone, traveling to India, Burma, Ceylon, China, Japan, and the Philippines. After returning, she took classes at Simmons College School of Social Work and in 1916, she married Malcolm Peabody, son of Fannie and Endicott Peabody, the founder of Groton School. They had five children: Mary, known as Marietta (1917-1991), Endicott (1920-1997), George (born 1922), Samuel (born 1925), and Malcolm, Jr. (born 1928).

The couple settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Malcolm Peabody was first curate and then rector of Grace Episcopal Church. Shortly after the birth of their first child, Malcolm Peabody began service as a World War I chaplain in France. During his absence, Mary Peabody worked with the Women's Liberty Loan committee, which encouraged women to buy Liberty Bonds to support the troops, and was active in community welfare projects. Malcolm Peabody returned to Lawrence in 1919, and in 1925 the Peabodys moved to Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, where he served as rector of St. Paul's Church; in 1938 he was elected bishop coadjutor of central New York and became bishop the following year. The Peabodys relocated first to Utica and then to Syracuse, New York. Mary Peabody taught religious classes for public school students in Syracuse and took in German and Austrian refugees during World War II. In 1960, Malcolm Peabody retired and the Peabodys moved again, to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In 1964, at the age of 72, Mary Peabody was recruited by a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join a civil rights demonstration in St. Augustine, Florida. She traveled with Hester Campbell, wife of the dean of the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Florence Rowe (mother-in-law of her son Malcolm), and Esther Burgess, wife of the first black Episcopal bishop in the United States. At the request of the demonstration's leader, Dr. Robert Hayling, Peabody and her companions attempted to get service at local restaurants and hotels. They were refused and Peabody was arrested for participating in a sit-in at a segregated motel dining room; she spent two nights in jail, drawing praise from Martin Luther King, Jr. Her son Endicott was governor of Massachusetts at the time, and partly because of this, her arrest drew a great deal of press coverage and she received large amounts of mail both praising and condemning her actions.

Following her return to Cambridge, Peabody remained active in the civil rights struggle and made many public appearances. She also worked for the rights of American Indians and the establishment of a school in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Malcolm Peabody died in 1974 and Mary Peabody died of heart failure on February 6, 1981.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1895-1990, n.d. (#1.1-9.7)
  2. ___Subseries A. Biographical, 1916, 1922, 1952-1990, n.d. (#1.1-1.12)
  3. ___Subseries B. Personal, 1895, 1903-1980, n.d. (#1.13-4.2)
  4. ___Subseries C. Diaries and calendars, 1899-1979, n.d. (#4.3-9.7)
  5. Series II. Peabody and Parkman families, 1891-1997, n.d. (#9.8-17.13)
  6. ___Subseries A. Family correspondence, 1891-1981, n.d. (#9.8-14.2)
  7. ___Subseries B. Malcolm Peabody 1912-1974, n.d. (#14.13-15.4)
  8. ___Subseries C. Family papers, 1892-1997, n.d. (#15.5-17.13)
  9. Series III. Correspondence, 1902-1981, n.d. (#18.1-21.9)
  10. Series IV. Activism and charity work, 1942-1980, n.d. (#21.10-25.11)
  11. ___Subseries A. St. Augustine, 1964-1968, 1979, n.d. (#21.10-24.11)
  12. ___Subseries B. Other activism and charity work, 1942-1980, n.d. (24.12-25.11)
  13. Series V. Photographs and oversized, 1883-1979, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.47, 26FB.1v-30FB.1v, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.3)
  14. ___Subseries A. Photographs, 1883-1976, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.47, 26FB.1v-27FB.1v)
  15. ___Subseries B. Oversized, 1910-1979, n.d. (#28FB.1v-30FB.1v, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.3)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 98-M67, 99-M56

The papers of Mary Peabody were given to the Schlesinger Library by her daughter-in-law,Barbara "Toni" Peabody, in April 1998 and April 1999.


Donors: Barbara "Toni" Peabody

Accession number: 98-M67, 99-M58

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following item has been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library book collection:

  1. Hartwell, Barbara Bartlett.Sprigs of Rosemary. The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Oregon: Portland, Oregon, 1975

The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to the Episcopal Divinity School library:

  1. E.D.S. News , ca.1963-1969

The following items have been removed from the collection and offered to the Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts, Boston

  1. The Federation of Boston Community Schools Newsletter, Fall 1976 and Fall 1977
  2. Friends of the Federation Newsletter, Spring 1972 and Spring 1973
  3. Roxbury Community School Newsletter Spring 1975, May and December 1977

Processing Information

Processed: September 2007

By: Susan Earle

Peabody, Mary. Papers of Mary Peabody, 1883-1997 (inclusive), 1904-1981 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Edward, Frances and Shirley B. Daniels Fund, with additional funding from the Peabody family.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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