About Us

Our Mission

The mission of EPH is to support families in our community in reaching their full potential through early childhood education, youth development and enrichment, and family services.

 

timeline-eph

 

Where We Came From

Our Namesake

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894) was a writer, intellectual and activist who rallied against slavery, championed women’s rights and was a leading educational reformer. Best known for formally institutionalizing the education of children under age six, Peabody was the founder of the first English-speaking kindergarten in the United States.

Her legacy was that her work helped establish the kindergarten as an accepted institution in American education. She never married, had money or was allowed to earn a college degree because of her sex. Still, the well-read Peabody earned the respect of, and kept company with, a who’s who of Boston’s elite, including Emerson, Thoreau and Channing, Garrison and Longfellow. Thought of as a leading feminist among women of her day, she was also a sister-in-law to writer Nathaniel Hawthorne and educational reformer Horace Mann, who founded Antioch College.

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody
Elizabeth Palmer Peabody

Our Beginnings
When Peabody died near age 90, her friends, colleagues and teachers she both mentored and inspired, established a settlement house that would serve as an oasis-of-sorts in an underprivileged area. True to what Peabody stood for, children would be its focus. Its location was where the impact would be greatest: Boston’s immigrant-filled West End neighborhood, adjacent to Massachusetts General Hospital near what is now Storrow Drive. From 1896 to 1958, the settlement house benefitted the community, especially among the Irish, Italians and Eastern European Jews who called the West End “home”.

For the first 15 years, The Elizabeth Peabody House had several West End addresses. Then, in 1912, it moved to a newly constructed, seven-story building that housed a kindergarten, a community theater and a gym. It offered English and citizenship classes to parents, sports leagues to youth, and children’s enrichment programming, including singing, dancing and acting. Among its early alumni were actor Leonard Nimoy and actress Ruth Roman, who trained in the theater.

Nimoy and Roman were among a generation of children who also took advantage of a 21-acre summer camp located on the south shore of Lake Massapoag in Sharon, Massachusetts. Camp Gannett was the 1915 gift of Boston hotelier Sarah Boyce, and reportedly was named for Sharon’s favored daughter, Deborah Sampson Gannett, one of the first females to fight in the American Revolutionary War. This summer getaway offered a much-needed escape to children and families in the overcrowded West End.

Boys assemble at The Elizabeth Peabody House circa 1900.
Boys assemble at The Elizabeth Peabody
House circa 1900.

Our Move
In the late 1950s, city fathers began planning for a “new Boston”, which called for razing the city’s WestEnd neighborhood. Many families chose to resettle in nearby Somerville, less than three miles away. Following the lead of those it served, The Elizabeth Peabody House also moved to Somerville to continue its work, especially with children.

Our Legacy
These days, the families of our children are less likely to be Irish, Italian or Jewish from Eastern Europe. Instead, they hail from places like Haiti, El Salvador and Brazil. And while the nationalities of our families may have changed, our commitment to serve them remains the same.

Broadway at Walnut St looking toward Winter Hill PC
Current location of our agency is located in the church to the right.