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Mary Tyler Peabody Mann
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Birth: Nov. 16, 1807
Middlesex County
Massachusetts, USA
Death: Feb. 11, 1887
Jamaica Plain
Suffolk County
Massachusetts, USA

Mann, Mary Peabody (16 Nov. 1806-11 Feb. 1887), writer, educator, and translator, was born Mary Tyler Peabody in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the second of seven children of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, a writer and teacher, and Dr. Nathaniel Peabody, a physician and dentist. Mary is also known as the middle of a trio of sisters: the oldest, named for their mother, was Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, a Transcendentalist and the founder of the American kindergarten; the youngest was Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, an artist and the wife of the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Mary was born while her father was completing his medical training at Harvard. The family settled in Salem, Massachusetts, where Dr. Peabody struggled to establish a practice. Throughout Mary's girlhood, as the family expanded with the addition of three brothers and a fourth sister who died in infancy, her mother augmented or served as mainstay of the family finances by teaching a girls school in the home. Mrs. Peabody's example, and that of maternal aunts who taught schools in Salem and other Massachusetts towns, impressed on all three daughters the importance of education for women as a source of income and enduring pleasure, and spurred them to make pedagogical innovations of their own.

But Mary was in many ways self-taught. She learned to read early by looking over her parents' shoulders as they read aloud from Shakespeare's plays in the evening. She befriended a wealthy neighbor from whom she learned botany while visiting his extensive gardens and farmlands. When the family moved to Lancaster, Massachusetts, for two years, as Dr. Peabody attempted to make a fresh start, Elizabeth took over the family school and Mary proved a rebellious student, preferring to climb a tree to study her lessons outdoors. Three years later, following several months of intensive tutoring in French, a language she readily absorbed, the seventeen-year-old Mary was teaching school herself in Hallowell, Maine, a position passed along to her by Elizabeth, who took a job as a governess nearby. From then on, with the exception of the sixteen years of her marriage to the educator and social reformer Horace Mann, she was nearly always engaged in some manner of partnership with her sister, in education and other reform causes.

In the late 1820s and early 1830s school teaching took the two older Peabody sisters to Boston, where they rented rooms in a Beacon Hill boardinghouse whose residents included the future Harvard president Jared Sparks and Horace Mann, then a lawyer and politician. Both sisters seem to have fallen in love with the recently widowed Mann. Mary won out, but Mann's proposal of marriage came only at the end of a decade during which she traveled to Cuba to work as a governess on a coffee plantation to support a rest cure for her sister Sophia, filled in for Elizabeth as assistant in the Transcendentalist A. Bronson Alcott's Temple School, established schools of her own in Salem and Boston, and wrote books for children published by Elizabeth from a row house on Boston's West Street to which the family moved in 1840 and where Elizabeth opened her famous foreign-language bookstore and subscription library. These first books were Primer of Reading and Drawing (1841) and The Flower People: Being an Account of the Flowers by Themselves (1842), a series of tales in which a young girl learns the principles of plant biology from talking flowers in her mother's garden. The Flower People was reprinted in seven illustrated editions by various publishers, the last in 1899.

By the time of her marriage to Horace Mann in 1843, Mary was an experienced teacher with a repertoire of original methods, many of which featured the outdoors: She took her pupils to the Boston Common to narrate the history of the city's founding and to observe the growth of trees and flowers through the seasons. She believed in individualized reading instruction for beginners, and her Primer, which employs a whole-word rather than phonetic method, reveals a philosophy of education as guided nurture. A series of letters written to a novice teacher at about this time, later published in Moral Culture of Infancy, and Kindergarten Guide, with Music for the Plays (1863), a book she coauthored with Elizabeth, exhibits a confident, even radical frame of mind. She writes of her schoolroom as "my own little free republic" and asks, "What do men know about the needs of little children just out of nurseries?" Her answer: School committees should be "formed of women."

After her marriage, Mary Mann gave up teaching, except to homeschool her three sons while living in West Newton, Massachusetts. She assisted her husband in correspondence during his three terms as a member of the House of Representatives and also supported the fledgling state normal school at West Newton, one of the fruits of Horace Mann's labors as the first secretary of the state board of education. Mary's letters to Horace from this period are a rich resource, recording her child-rearing philosophy; her use of chloroform as a self-administered anesthetic in childbirth; her advocacy for Chloe Lee, the normal school's first African-American student; and her appeals for causes, including abolitionism, that she expected her husband to support in Congress. In 1853 the family moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio, where Horace became the first president of Antioch College, the first coeducational college in America to offer male and female students the same curriculum. The college housed a preparatory school, which the Mann boys attended while Mary served as a mentor to female students at the college and resumed her writing career. She wrote a health-conscious recipe book, Christianity in the Kitchen: A Physiological Cook-Book (1857), which was among the first of its kind, and drafted an antislavery novel based on her experiences in Cuba, published posthumously as Juanita: A Romance of Real Life in Cuba Fifty Years Ago (1887).

Mary Mann lived for almost three decades after her husband's death in 1859. She returned to the East Coast and lived in Concord, Massachusetts, during the Civil War, then in Cambridge, Boston, and Jamaica Plain, sometimes with her sons, often with her sister Elizabeth. These were the years of her greatest influence and productivity as a writer. Her Life of Horace Mann (1865) was followed by five articles in a series written by "celebrated women" published in the 1868-69 issues of the Herald of Health and Journal of Physical Culture. Signing herself "Mrs. Horace Mann," she wrote on child care, kindergarten, and women's suffrage. She contributed an essay on the benefits of college education for women to the poet and suffragist Julia Ward Howe's Sex and Education: A Reply to Dr. E. H. Clark's "Sex in Education" (1874).

Mann may have been most gratified by two works of translation undertaken in support of far-flung personalities and causes. She had met the Argentine reformer and eventual president Domingo F. Sarmiento when he visited her husband in 1847, serving as interpreter; after Horace Mann's death she continued the connection, recruiting New England women to teach in Argentine schools and translating from the Spanish Sarmiento's political novel Facundo, which appeared as Life in the Argentine Republic in the Days of the Tyrants; or, Civilization and Barbarism (1868), with a lengthy biographical preface of Mary Mann's composition. The book stood as the only English translation of this foundational Latin American text until 2003. Mann also edited and saw into print the Native American activist Sarah Winnemucca's autobiography, Life among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (1883).

Mary Mann died in 1887 in a Jamaica Plain apartment shared with her sister Elizabeth. A classic middle child by temperament, she often seemed to lead by following. Yet Mann might rather be credited as an astute and forward-thinking mediator between diverse cultures and personalities whose many good works outlasted her reputation as a "celebrated" woman.


Significant holdings of correspondence and other manuscript items by Mann can be found in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston; the Antiochiana Collection, Olive Kettering Library, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio; and the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library. There are no single-subject biographies of Mann, but she is treated at length in Louise Hall Tharp, The Peabody Sisters of Salem (1950) and Until Victory: Horace Mann and Mary Peabody (1953); Megan Marshall, The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (2005); and Monika M. Elbert, Julie E. Hall, and Katharine Rodier, eds., Reinventing the Peabody Sisters (2006). Mann's autobiographical essay, "Reminiscences of School Life and Teaching," in Barnard's American Journal of Education (1884), is a useful resource, along with Patricia M. Ard's introduction to her reissue of Mann's Juanita (2000), and "Mary Mann and the Translation of South American Politics," a chapter in Ivan Jaksic, The Hispanic World and American Intellectual Life, 1820-1880 (2007). Mann's correspondence with Sarmiento has been translated into English with a helpful introduction by Barry L. Velleman in "My Dear Sir": Mary Mann's Letters to Sarmiento (1865-1881) (2001).
 (bio by: Thea Goodman) 
Family links: 
  Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1778 - 1853)
  Horace Mann (1796 - 1859)
  Horace Mann (1844 - 1868)*
  Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804 - 1894)*
  Mary Tyler Peabody Mann (1807 - 1887)
  Sophia Amelia Peabody Hawthorne (1809 - 1871)*
  Nathaniel Cranch Peabody (1811 - 1881)*
  George Francis Peabody (1813 - 1839)*
  Wellington Peabody (1815 - 1837)*
  Catharine Putnam Peabody (1819 - 1819)*
*Calculated relationship
Note: d/o Nathaniel & Elizabeth (Palmer) Peabody
North Burial Ground
Providence County
Rhode Island, USA
Created by: Jen Snoots
Record added: Sep 07, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 11705199
Mary Tyler <i>Peabody</i> Mann
Added by: Mary Bingham
Mary Tyler <i>Peabody</i> Mann
Added by: Jen Snoots
Mary Tyler <i>Peabody</i> Mann
Added by: Jen Snoots
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- Tom and Kathy (Weller) Medick
 Added: Oct. 5, 2015

- Lance
 Added: Feb. 24, 2013

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