Elizabeth F. Fideler's (SHS 1960) "Margaret Pearmain Welch (1893-1984): Activist, Pacifist, Reformer, Preservationist"

In a bygone era when twentieth-century Proper Bostonians mixed Beacon Hill formalities with countryside pleasures, Margaret Pearmain Welch (1893-1984) defied the mores of her social set and got away with it. She was the epitome of everything expected and much that was scandalous. Known as a debutante, dancer, world traveler, and hostess, she was also an indefatigable activist, writer, lecturer, lobbyist, fundraiser, and opinion shaper--grande dame as well as proverbial little old lady in combat boots (footwear more appropriate to confrontation than tennis shoes).

A descendant of seventeenth-century dissenter Anne Hutchinson and just as independent, she embraced Quaker ideals of religious tolerance, conscientious objection, and civil liberties, as well as worship without the benefit of clergy. Margaret was the quintessential socialite who established Waltz Evenings in her Louisburg Square drawing room and also the beauty whose marriages and divorces caused ostracism. At the same time, she worked tirelessly on women's suffrage, reproductive rights, world peace, environmental protection, monetary reform, land conservation, and more. As the indomitable matriarch of an extended family and chronicler of its history, her efforts at self-fashioning produced a unique persona, blending insistence on proprieties with a keen awareness of twentieth-century social, cultural, political, and economic shifts.

 

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