Cover: Elizabeth Palmer Peabody in HARDCOVER

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody

A Reformer on Her Own Terms

Add to Cart

Product Details


$96.00 • £76.95 • €86.50

ISBN 9780674246959

Publication Date: 03/01/1999


416 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

9 halftones


Bruce Ronda’s biography of the eccentric Elizabeth Palmer Peabody atypically devotes almost more time to Peabody’s circle of intimates than it does to Peabody herself. By doing so, Ronda places Peabody in her time and place and effectively illustrates how powerful social, historical, and cultural forces shaped his subject. In fact, what makes this biography so appealing is the nature of those myriad forces which Ronda explores admirably… Ronda’s careful mining of Peabody’s correspondences and the papers of her contemporaries provides intimate details about these individuals… Ronda’s ‘insider’s’ glimpse into the transcendentalist movement is captivating and the part of his larger depiction of the role of religion and philosophy in the lives of the educated, white, middle class… Ronda’s focus was Peabody’s own struggle with faith and theology, especially the role played by emotion, but the result is an absorbing account of the struggles within and between the adherents of the various philosophical positions played in the lives of early nineteenth-century men and women, a phenomenon sometimes difficult for contemporary readers to grasp.—Jana Nidiffer, History of Education Quarterly

With Ronda’s superb biography, we are given the most comprehensive analysis yet undertaken of her life, thought, and influence… We are left with a rich intricate portrait of a complex personality, a woman best understood as a ‘practical intellectual.’ Moreover, A Reformer on Her Own Terms takes up the lives and times closest to Peabody, creating, in many ways, a biography of the Peabody family. Ronda is at his best when illustrating the connection between belief and behavior or the Aristotelian notion of praxis. He is insightful as well when analyzing faith and religion and in understanding the integral part Unitarianism played in Peabody’s life and actions.—Karen Fisher Younger, Journal of the Early Republic

In Ronda’s sensitive narrative, Peabody finally comes alive as the fascinating Romantic intellectual and educational reformer that she was.—Charles Capper, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

From Our Blog


Who We Might Have Been, and Who We Will Become

Who among us hasn’t considered what our lives would be like if we had taken alternate paths, made different decisions? Storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have, says Andrew H. Miller, author of On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives. As we live through a worldwide pandemic, the ideas of what might have been are even more appealing. Much like the adolescents on the verge of adulthood in Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, Miller tells us, we wait to see what comes next.