Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of the family correspondence, personal correspondence, and diaries of Marian Lawrence Peabody. Also included are the papers and correspondence of various members of the Lawrence and Peabody families, including the diaries of Hetty Lawrence Cunningham.
Marian Lawrence Peabody (1875-1974) was the daughter of Bishop William Lawrence (1850-1941) and Julia Cunningham Lawrence (1853-1927). Known to her family as "Maisie," she grew up in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., spending summers with her family in Nahant and Bar Harbor, Maine. Educated at private schools and the Art Museum School, Marian was very active in the upper circles of Boston society and traveled extensively in Europe, the western U.S., and Canada. She held several exhibits of her paintings and sculptures and created portraits of family and friends. An active philanthropist, she was the founder and director of a boys' club affiliated with the North Bennet Street School, chairman of the committee that built Sailor’s Haven in the port of Boston, secretary of the Episcopal Church Home Society, chairman of the Boston Committee for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise, chairman of the Membership Committee of the Mass. Social Hygiene Society; chair of the New England division of the War Work Council of the YWCA during World War I, and chair of the Ladies Committee of the Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary. In her later years, she published several articles of historical reminiscences and a volume of excerpts from her diaries in To Be Young Was Very Heaven (1967). Marian married Harold Peabody (1880-1961) in May 1906, and the couple had a daughter, Gertrude Lawrence Peabody McCue (1915-2005). She died in Milton in 1974 at the age of 98.
William Lawrence (1850-1941) was the son of textile industrialist Amos Adams Lawrence (1814-1886) and Sarah Elizabeth Appleton (1822-1891) and the brother of Marianne Appleton Lawrence Amory (1843-1882); Sarah Lawrence Brooks (1845-1915); Amory Appleton Lawrence (1848-1912); Susan Mason Lawrence Loring (1852-1923); Hetty Sullivan Lawrence Cunningham (1855-1931); and Harriet Dexter Lawrence Hemenway (1857-1960). He served as the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts from 1893 to 1927. He published his memoirs, Memories of a Happy Life, in 1926. William married Julia Cunningham in 1874 and they had eight children: Marian "Maisie" Lawrence Peabody (1875-1974); Julia "Julie" Lawrence Feary (1877-1962); Sarah "Sallie" Lawrence Slattery (1879-); Rosamund Lawrence (1882-1883); Ruth "Ruthie" Lawrence Reed (1886-1973); William "Appie" Appleton Lawrence (1889-1968); Eleanor "Elsie" Lawrence Mills (1894-1963) and Frederick "Freddie" Cunningham Lawrence (1899-1989).
Hetty Sullivan Lawrence Cunningham (1855-1931) was the seventh of eight children of Amos Adams Lawrence (1814-1886) and Sarah Appleton Lawrence (1822-1891) of Boston, and the sister of William Lawrence. She married Frederic Cunningham (1854-1930) in 1877 and they lived in Brookline with their children Harriett Cutler Cunningham (1885-1981), Hetty S. Cunningham (1885-1903), Constance Cunningham (1886-1962), Frederic Cunningham (1888-1958), Susannah Cunningham (b. 1889), and Lawrence Cunningham (1892-1923).
The Marian Lawrence Peabody papers consist of 31 document boxes spanning the years 1874 to 1969. The collection contains Marian's family correspondence, personal correspondence, and 83 diaries that describe her life as a Boston debutante and socialite, philanthropist, artist, traveler, wife, mother, and writer. Marian’s diaries and letters discuss her daily activities in Boston and Cambridge, Mass. as well as her summers in Bar Harbor, Maine, including society dinners and dances, courtships, weddings, births, childrearing, marital difficulties, illnesses, and deaths of family and friends. Large amounts of correspondence consists of congratulatory letters upon Marian’s engagement to Harold Peabody in Dec. 1905, her wedding in May 1906, and the birth of her daughter, Gertrude, in 1915.
Much of Marian’s correspondence and diary entries discuss her frequent travels, including descriptions of hotels, people, historic monuments and buildings, museums, scenic views, historic events, and upper-class social activities. Letters to her parents, Bishop William Lawrence and Julia Cunningham Lawrence, describe her trip to England in June 1902 to witness the coronation of Edward VII. Other letters and diary entries describe trips to Europe in 1896, 1901, 1903, 1906, 1910, 1925-1926, 1932, and 1938, trips to California, the western United States, and Canada in 1901 and 1923, and a trip to Scandinavia in 1913.
Later correspondence and diary entries relate to the fire which destroyed her Bar Harbor home in 1947; Gertrude’s engagement and marriage in 1948; Marian’s many episodes of ill health; her husband Harold’s illness and death in 1961; her birthdays, particularly her 70th, 80th, and 90th; and the publication of her diary in 1967, for which she received a large number of congratulatory letters.
A large amount of Marian’s personal correspondence is related to the long list of charities she championed, including the Lawrence Boys Club of Boston’s North Bennet Street School; Sailors’ Haven, an Episcopal Church mission in the Port of Boston; the New England Women’s Work Council of the YWCA, which established Hostess Houses for sailors during World War I; the Bar Harbor chapter of the American Red Cross; and with her friend Alice Vanderbilt Morris, the International Auxiliary Language Association. Letters and diaries also refer to Marian’s growth and development as an artist and her success with painting and sculpture; her struggles with anxiety and depression and her treatments at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge; her daughter Gertrude’s work as a social worker with the Red Cross during World War II; and the many foreign travels of her extended network of friends and family.
The collection also contains papers of the Lawrence and Peabody families, including the correspondence of Marian's parents, William and Julia Lawrence, her husband, Harold Peabody, and her daughter, Gertrude Peabody McCue, as well as four diaries written by Marian’s aunt, Hetty Lawrence Cunningham, spanning the years 1876 to 1911.
Additions, added to the collection in 2015, include Marian's correspondence, personal papers, writings, and printed material.
Gift of Marian Lawrence Peabody, 1969 and 1970.
Additions, gift of Julia McCue, Feb. 2015.
Digital facsimiles of the Hetty Sullivan Lawrence Cunningham diaries are available on Leisure, Travel & Mass Culture: The History of Tourism, a digital publication of Adam Matthew Digital, Inc. This digital resource is available at subscribing libraries; speak to your local librarian to determine if your library has access. The MHS makes this resource available onsite; see a reference librarian for more information.
The MHS holds a one-reel microfilm edition of the Hetty Sullivan Lawrence Peabody diaries, P-784.
Excerpts from Marian Lawrence Peabody's early diaries (1897 to 1905) were published in 1967 as To Be Young Was Very Heaven: A Boston Girlhood at the Century's Turn from the Diaries of Marian Lawrence Peabody.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Family correspondence, ca. 1884-1968
This series consists of Marian Lawrence Peabody's correspondence with her parents, Bishop William Lawrence and Julia Cunningham Lawrence; her maternal grandmother and godmother, Sarah Parker Cunningham; her aunts Harriet Lawrence Hemenway, Susan Lawrence Loring, and Hetty Lawrence Cunningham; her siblings Julia "Julie" Lawrence (Fearey), Sarah "Sallie" Lawrence (Slattery), Ruth "Ruthie" Lawrence (Reed), Eleanor "Elsie" Lawrence Mills, William Appleton "Appie" Lawrence, and Frederic "Freddie" C. Lawrence.
A small amount of correspondence with her husband Harold Peabody, largely written after 1934 when the couple began to live apart, illustrates Marian's long-lasting but difficult marriage. Marian's extensive correspondence with her daughter, Gertrude Peabody (McCue), begins in 1921. Later correspondence includes that with her grandchildren William McCue and Marian McCue, as well as with many nieces and nephews. Many family letters, particularly those from her mother, sisters, and daughter, are undated.
Topics largely consist of news of Marian's extended family including courtships, weddings, births, childrearing, illnesses, and deaths, as well as descriptions of travel to Europe, Scandinavia, and the western United States. There is also much correspondence between Marian and her siblings after the death of their father in 1941, concerning memorials, distribution of his papers and portraits, the publication of his biography, and financial matters. Letters from her daughter in the 1940s discuss Gertrude's hospital social work during World War II, as well as marriage and motherhood.
A. Dated correspondence, ca. 1884-1968
B. Undated correspondence
Arranged alphabetically by correspondent.
II. Personal correspondence, 1886-1969
Marian Lawrence Peabody's early personal correspondence was with childhood friends and schoolmates, including Theresa "Tradja" Davis, Marian Mason, and Carrie Dabney. Many of her friends traveled extensively and wrote descriptive letters during extended trips to Europe, Bolivia, and Shanghai. One such friend was Gertrude Codman Parker Carter (1875-1953), who married Sir Gilbert Thomas Carter, governor and commander-in-chief of the Bahamas, later the governor of Barbados and administrator of Trinidad and Tobago. Gertrude often illustrated her letters with detailed drawings and descriptions of people and places in these lands.
Marian also maintained a long correspondence with Alice Vanderbilt Morris (1874-1950) of New York, the wife of Dave Hennan Morris, later the American ambassador to Belgium. Known to her friends as "Angela," she and her family founded the International Auxiliary Language Assoc. of which Marian was a director. John D. Rockefeller, Marian's Mt. Desert Island neighbor, began corresponding with Marian in 1929 about their mutual interest in insomnia treatments. At first opposing each other on the development of roads on Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park, they became longtime friends.
A large portion of Marian's personal correspondence reflects her involvement with charities and social work. Letters to Marian requesting charity first appear in 1894. Her interest in the Lawrence Boys' Club at the North Bennet Street School prompted a ongoing correspondence with many of the Irish and Italian boys, some of which continued throughout her life. Similarly, many sailors Marian met through her work at Sailors' Haven, an Episcopal Church mission at the port of Boston, maintained a lifelong correspondence with her, among them John M. Fournier, Tom Foley, and John and Mabel Creber. Other 1904-1905 correspondence is with Sailor's Haven superintendent Stanton King and architect Charles Collins in her capacity as head of the Sailors' Haven building committee to construct a new facility for visiting sailors. Later correspondence reflects Marian's work with the U. S. Social Hygiene Board, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and the Bar Harbor chapter of the American Red Cross.
Beginning in 1922, letters from Austen Riggs Foundation doctors discuss treatments for Marian's anxiety and stress. Correspondence (including third party) related to building roads on Mt. Desert Island, Maine, and the development of Acadia National Park includes a 1930 letter from Frederic Law Olmsted addressing the issue. Many letters contain birthday congratulations, condolences for the fire that destroyed her Bar Harbor home in 1947, and sympathies upon the death of her husband, Harold, in 1961. A large amount of later correspondence consists of letters related to the publication of Marian's articles and later her diary, including letters with publishers, the typist who transcribes her diaries, and many letters of congratulation after her book's publication in 1967. Letters of 1967 and 1968 consist almost entirely of "fan mail."
A. Dated correspondence, 1886-1969
B. Undated correspondence
Arranged with Marian Peabody's undated letters first, then alphabetically by correspondent.
III. Diaries, 1887-1965
Arranged chronologically. Loose items removed from each diary are placed in folders behind the volume.
The diaries of Marian Lawrence Peabody span the years 1887 to 1965, reflecting her thoughts and activities and those of her family and friends. Much more introspective than her letters, her entries dwell on her illnesses, relationships, angst over remaining single through her twenties, the emotional stress of her marital difficulties, and other personal insights. There are no entries from the date of her marriage in May 1906 until 1909, although Marian attempted to fill in some of the missing entries, most likely in 1908.
Highlights from her earlier diaries include descriptions of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, watching John Singer Sargent paint a portrait of her uncle (Feb. and March 1903), meeting Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and a description of the Kronprincessin Cecile with wealthy passengers and their gold bullion docking at the neutral port of Bar Harbor in 1914. Marian also describes her travels to Europe in 1896, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1910, 1925-1926, 1932, and 1938; to Scandinavia in 1913; and to California and the western United States in 1901 and 1923.
Later diaries describe Marian's activities raising money and running the social work programs of the YWCA during World War I, and as the only woman on War Committee for New England. She describes her daughter's childhood and Gertrude's activities as head of social work at Cushing Hospital in Framingham during World War II under the Red Cross. Except for the World War II years, there are few mentions of current events throughout the diaries, although she occasionally comments on local and national politics during her later years.
Items removed from the diaries consist largely of invitations, concert and theatre programs, and printed materials related to her interests in art and charitable work. The bulk consists of newspaper clippings related to family or current events, particularly World War II.
Marian published excerpts from her early diaries (1887 to 1905) in 1967 as To Be Young Was Very Heaven: A Boston Girlhood at the Century's Turn from the Diaries of Marian Lawrence Peabody.
IV. Lawrence-Peabody family papers, 1876-1968
This series contains the family and personal correspondence and personal papers of the interrelated Lawrence and Peabody families. Much of this material appears to have been sent to Marian Lawrence Peabody for her perusal or collected by her as significant keepsakes. Included are the diaries of Marian's aunt, Hetty Lawrence Cunningham.
For correspondence between the Lawrence and Peabody families and Marian Lawrence Peabody, see Series I, Family Correspondence.
A. Correspondence, 1891-1968
Included is family correspondence between William and Julia Lawrence, Harold Peabody, and Gertrude Peabody McCue, as well as letters to William and Julia from their son Frederick when he lived in Cairo and Rome from 1920 to 1923. Also included is correspondence between Harold and his stepmother Martha Whitney Peabody, and correspondence between Marian’s siblings.
The subseries also contains the personal correspondence of William and Julia Lawrence, Harold Peabody, and Gertrude Lawrence McCue, including a March 1905 letter to William and Julia Lawrence from Edith Kermit Roosevelt accepting an invitation on behalf of President Roosevelt and a thank you note from their son Kermit. Eightieth birthday congratulations to William Lawrence include a telegram from former Boston mayor John F. Fitzgerald. The bulk of correspondence consists of responses to Gertrude’s invitation to Marian’s 80th birthday party in May 1955.
B. Papers, undated
Papers include many undated and largely unidentified notes, essays, and lists, including an essay on the proposed roads in Lafayette National Park, a typescript of a travel narrative in France during World War I, a pew list from an unidentified church, a memorial to J. Pierpont Morgan, writings on the Lawrence Club, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and a list of donors with the amounts of their donations.
C. Hetty Lawrence Cunningham diaries, 1876-1911
This series contains the diaries of Hetty Lawrence Cunningham, the daughter of Amos Adams Lawrence and Sarah Appleton Lawrence, and the sister of Bishop William Lawrence. Hetty's diaries primarily cover the years 1876 to 1887, from her engagement to Frederic Cunningham, her marriage in Dec. 1877 at the age of 22, and through her first ten years of married life. Diary entries discuss her clothing; engagements of her friends; charitable works; her doubts about marriage; her daily life at her home in the Longwood neighborhood of Brookline, Mass.; social activities; an 1877 trip to Washington D.C.; meeting President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes in Boston in 1877; and descriptions of camping in New York's Adirondack Mountains in 1881. Later entries written in the back of the diary she began in Mar. 1878 describe travels to Virginia in 1898, to Italy in 1908 to see the Jubilee of Pope Pius X, and to Newport, R.I. in 1911.
Digital facsimiles of the Hetty Sullivan Lawrence Cunningham diaries are available on Leisure, Travel & Mass Culture: The History of Tourism, a digital publication of Adam Matthew Digital, Inc. This digital resource is available to researchers on MHS library computers. See a reference librarian for information on how to access this resource.
V. Printed material, 1874-1968
This series contains printed material related to the 1901 Episcopal Convention, the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII, Sailor’s Haven, the Lawrence Century Club, the War Work Council of the YWCA, the Bar Harbor branch of the Red Cross, and Acadia National Park. Also included are wedding invitations and announcements, report cards, theatre and concert programs, memorials and obituaries, postcards, church bulletins, greeting cards, and newspaper clippings related to Bishop William Lawrence and other family members.
VI. Additions, 1917-1969
Material added to the Marian Lawrence Peabody papers in February 2015 includes Marian's personal correspondence, largely related to the publication of her diary in 1967, as well as personal papers, writings, and printed material.
A. Correspondence, 1925-1969
Marian's correspondence includes a 1925 letter from artist Philip L. Hale offering his advice on her artwork and letters commenting on her writings, notably her article "Old Bar Harbor Days." The bulk are letters from Craig Wylie of Houghton Mifflin Co. concerning the publication of her diary and memoir To Be Young Was Very Heaven in 1967, as well as letters of appreciation for her book from friends and acquaintances. Also in this subseries is an undated letter from Marian's father, Bishop William Lawrence.
B. Personal papers and writings, 1918-1932
Included in this subseries is a certificate of appreciation for Marian's World War I "War Work" campaign, a 1932 essay containing her remembrances of Philip L. Hale, and an undated list of her artwork exhibition at the Copley Society. Also included is an undated manuscript and typescript of an essay entitled, "A Young Girl's Reminiscences of Phillips Brooks."
C. Printed material, 1917-1938
Printed material consists of undated clippings of costumed women and several periodicals, including a December 1917 issue of The Church Militant with a cover featuring a portrait drawing of Marian by John Singer Sargent and containing Marian's article "Women's War Work for Girls."
Marian Lawrence Peabody papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.
Material Removed from the Collection
Photographs have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives.