The Peabody Sisters of Salem Essay - Critical Essays

Louise Hall Tharp


The Peabody Sisters of Salem shows the influence and roles of three remarkable women in American literary and cultural history. Tharp’s collective biography maintains an even focus on her three subjects. Elizabeth is shown to have the dominant personality of the sisters, but Mary’s and Sophia’s strength and resolve are made evident.

This book was not written specifically for a young adult audience, although it could have much appeal for that group. Tharp has produced a scholarly book based on solid research, including many primary sources and discussions with direct descendants of her subjects. The author’s lively narrative style and ability to visualize and dramatize key scenes, however, makes her work readable and interesting for young readers as well as for adults. In addition, the book is a valuable resource for learning more about the literary and cultural history of nineteenth century New England, which was probably the intellectual core of the nation at that time.

Tharp paints three fascinating portraits in this biography. Elizabeth was the strength of the family, as she was forced to mature early. For a woman of her time, her intellectual achievements were remarkable. She and Fuller were asked to join Emerson’s exclusive Hedge’s Club to discuss German, French, and English philosophy. She was an editor and contributor to the transcendentalist journal The Dial, as well as a publisher, a gifted teacher, an activist for education, and always a benefactor to others. While she was limited by nineteenth century American...

(The entire section is 644 words.)