Social and Political Reform
Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and the Antislavery Movement
Dana Moriarty, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2002
Although Elizabeth admitted that she became involved in the antislavery movement late, she claimed her "heart and judgment were always on the Antislavery side. . ." She also conceded that she was not very knowledgeable on the subject and that her school in Boston kept her from the Grimke sisters' addresses in Concord in the mid-1830's (Ronda 263).
Peabody's interest and involvement in antislavery escalated in the late 1850's when she became a crusader of sorts for Mattie Griffith. Griffith was a writer whose Autobiography of a Female Slave did not do well. Peabody became involved in trying to get people interested in this book. "Hoping to interest reform-minded women in subscribing money for Griffith's support, Peabody wrote a flurry of letters to such people as Frances Seward. . .and Eliza Follen"(Ronda 263).
Elizabeth's devotion to antislavery extended to her sister, Sophia, and her family with Nathaniel Hawthorne. Elizabeth worried that the time they spent in England had made them proslavery. Sophia assured her, "Not a person has spoken to me of slavery-my husband and I never discuss it nor speak of it, except when your letters on unaccountable accusation and solicitude about my morals arrive, and then we wonder what you can mean, as we both feel quite innocent, and hate the evil quite as much as you do"(Ronda 264).
Peabody went so far as to send Hawthorne antislavery pamphlets, which he returned to her, and she later sent again (Ronda 265). Sophia was against slavery but also against reformers who advocated civil disobedience (Ronda 264). In fact, it was Sophia and Hawthorne's beliefs that originally kept them from returning to Concord. Hawthorne was not particularly popular with abolitionists because he supported Franklin Pierce and even dedicated Our Old Home to him. Sophia continually supported him (Ronda 270).
Peabody watched former students and children of friends "enlisting, fighting, and dying" in the Civil War. "She would raise money for the case of the wounded through auctions of memorabilia. She would meet Abraham Lincoln twice and would witness the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, from the gallery of the House of Representatives"(Ronda 271).