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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Peabody, Mary. Papers

Repository: Harvard University. Radcliffe Institute. Schlesinger Library

Collection Description (Extant): Papers of Mary Peabody, member of the Peabody family of Massachusetts, activist, and civic volunteer . . . . 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 demonstation'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.


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.

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.

Date(s): 1883-1997

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: MC 549

Extent: 10 linear feet (25 file boxes, 3 folio boxes, 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 3 oversized folders, 38 photograph folders, 8 folio photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 2 folio photograph boxes)

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Related Archival Items: See the collection that consists of a transcript of an oral history of Mary Peabody, also at Harvard and a record of which is in this database.

Interviewees: Mary Peabody, Betty Gardiner, Hester Campbell, Katherine Putnam Bundy

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


Civil rights demonstrations--Florida--Saint Augustine
Civil rights movements--Florida
Civil rights workers--Massachusetts
Episcopal Church
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Women civil rights workers




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   May 15, 2015
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