The Peabody Sisters by Megan Marshall
Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Megan Marshall

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Megan Marshall is the author of The Peabody Sisters, which won the Francis Parkman Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award in Nonfiction, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography and memoir. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, and Slate. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEH fellowships, Marshall teaches narrative nonfiction and the art of archival research in the MFA program at Emerson College.
 
Published May 11, 2006 by Mariner Books. 636 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Peabody Sisters

Kirkus Reviews

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Still, using a vast cache of family letters and journals, Marshall masterfully analyzes how the three “both welcomed their group identity and resented it as they strove for independent self-fulfillment.” Most startling, she depicts two triangular relationships, with Mary and Sophia succeeding in ...

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The New York Times

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Instead she transmitted her ideals, and the three girls - Elizabeth, Mary and Sophia - would each, in very different ways, chase after their mother's dream of a day when women and men might meet as intellectual equals and, working together as soul mates, make a better world.

Apr 20 2005 | Read Full Review of The Peabody Sisters: Three Wo...

The New York Times

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her intellectual capacities and conversational abilities were what attracted the notice and secured the friendship of luminaries like Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ellery Channing, Margaret Fuller and Horace Mann (who married Mary Peabody after an attenuated courtship that evolved, like Sophia's r...

Apr 17 2005 | Read Full Review of The Peabody Sisters: Three Wo...

The New Republic

Soon she was coming downstairs regularly, even when Elizabeth was absent, activating an excruciating rivalry played out on the tiny stage of the house—Sophia was still too ill to go out— and inflamed by Hawthorne’s evasion of any frank accounting to Elizabeth.

Oct 10 2005 | Read Full Review of The Peabody Sisters: Three Wo...

The New Republic

Soon she was coming downstairs regularly, even when Elizabeth was absent, activating an excruciating rivalry played out on the tiny stage of the house—Sophia was still too ill to go out— and inflamed by Hawthorne’s evasion of any frank accounting to Elizabeth.

Oct 10 2005 | Read Full Review of The Peabody Sisters: Three Wo...

Bookmarks Magazine

This biography of three sisters—Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894), Mary Tyler Peabody Mann (1807-1887), and Sophia Amelia Peabody Hawthorne (1809-1871)—is based on rich primary sources and was 20 years in the making.

Jan 03 2008 | Read Full Review of The Peabody Sisters: Three Wo...

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