The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (Paperback)

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The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism By Megan Marshall Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

If you were a thinker or artist in the mid-19th century then you knew the Peabody Sisters. I like to think that I might have been hanging out with their crowd.

— From Pete


PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST: “A stunning work of biography” about three little-known New England women who made intellectual history (New York Times). This book is highly recommended for students and reading groups interested in American history, American literature, and women's studies.

Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia Peabody were in many ways our American Brontës. 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.

About the Author

MEGAN MARSHALL is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for Margaret Fuller, and the author of The Peabody Sisters, which won the Francis Parkman Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. She is the Charles Wesley Emerson College Professor and teaches narrative nonfiction and the art of archival research in the MFA program at Emerson College. For more, visit

Praise For…

"Outstanding . . . Marshall has distilled 20 years of research into a book that brings the sisters to life." Publishers Weekly, Starred

"An engrossing account, replete with both penetrating insights and interesting details." --Mary Ellen Quinn Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"An excellent biography...a colorful and sympathetic portrait of these remarkable women." --Francine Prose The New York Times Book Review

"A stunning work of biography and intellectual history. . .the intellectual equivalent of a triple axel." --William Grimes The New York Times

"This monumental biography answers every question about its subjects but one: Why aren't the Peabody sisters famous? . . . Vibrant." --Sue Corbett People Magazine

"The real fascination is in [the Peabody sisters'] linked lives, and those have now been ably re-created." --Michael Kenney Boston Globe —

Product Details
ISBN: 9780618711697
ISBN-10: 0618711694
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: May 11th, 2006
Pages: 624
Language: English