Amelia Peabody 1890 – 1984

If I ever do take up charity, I intend to do it, and not half do it. Amelia Peabody, 1912

Amelia Peabody was a very private person with a public conscience. Over her long life, she quietly distributed her wealth for the benefit of tens of thousands, most of whom, according to her wishes, never knew her name. In 1964, she extended her legacy of giving in perpetuity by establishing the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund.

Brought up to be “a lady of society,” Peabody did not attend college, but studied sculpture with a passion in Boston, New York, and Paris. She built a solar studio and continued sculpting her whole life. Her work was exhibited widely, including at the New York World’s Fair (1939 and 1940), the Whitney, and the Boston Athenaeum (the last in 1975, at the age of 85). During and after World Wars I and II, she worked with returning and injured veterans, teaching occupational arts and crafts.

In the early 1920s, Peabody began buying farms and farmland in Dover, Massachusetts, where she devoted herself to horse riding and animal husbandry. She bred and raised race horses, white-faced Hereford cattle, and Yorkshire pigs—all of which were recognized for their breeding and bloodlines. In 1981, in one of the rare departures from the anonymity that characterized her giving, she founded the Amelia Peabody Pavilion, which houses a large animal clinic at the Tufts-New England Veterinary Medical Center in Grafton, Massachusetts.

Peabody also continued the medical philanthropy of her father, step-father, and uncle with generous donations to a number of institutions in the Boston area dedicated to the relief of human suffering. A lifelong love of science led Peabody to be especially supportive of ground-breaking research to prevent illness or discover new treatments.

This love of science and a remarkably prescient concern with the conservation of nature and natural resources led Peabody to one of the world’s first solar energy projects in 1948. She funded the work of solar science and agricultural engineering pioneers in the design and construction of a solar house on property she owned adjacent to her farm. The house was visited by thousands of scientists and industrialists and relied on solar energy technologies that would emerge in a more mature form in the 1970s.

In her later years, Peabody’s farm became all the more dear to her and she declared her “porch at Mill Farm” her favorite place in the world. She continued to quietly increase her land-holdings and to fund the preservation of forests. As she grew older and was unable to ride, she relished seeing others gallop by and enjoy the land. Shortly before her death on May 31, 1984, she looked out the window of her farm to the paddocks and forest and whispered, “Great day.”