University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Frances Peabody papers, 1920-1997

Full finding aid (pdf)

Collection Scope and Content

Series 1 consists of the files set up by Peabody as she worked her way through the process of writing and publishing Tate House: Crown of the Maine Mast Trade. The files document the steps necessary to see a project through, ie., multiple drafts, publicizing, printers, funding, and reviews by peers. Peabody’s original file titles and order were retained as much as possible.

Series 2 contains multiple black and white images in publication layout telling the story of the merger between Sweetser Services and the Children’s Home of Portland.

Series 3, Research Files of Historic Maine (including Portland) and People, contains newspaper clippings, photocopies, research papers, and uncredited notes that Peabody collected for reference purposes on a variety of subjects.

Series 4, Organizations, consists of papers that relate to Peabody’s work with many Maine organizations and some she did not work with; copies of lecture notes that accompanied her slide lectures [note: original slides and notes have been given to Greater Portland Landmarks]; her records of her involvement with her alma mater, Smith College, including reunion organization; materials from a scrapbook album (mostly photographs) that she gathered as a gift to the MWWC in honor of author Elizabeth Gilmore Holt (later added to by MWWC co-founder Dorothy Healy); and lastly, a biography of Peabody by Kathy Mills and five computer disks of unknown content.

Biographical/Historical Note

Frances (Frannie) Peabody was born on April 18, 1903. In 1925 she graduated from Smith College. She married Millard S. Peabody and had four children: Charlotte, Barbara, Louise, and Sandy (Millard S. Jr.). Peabody founded Greater Portland Landmarks, and was also a member of The National Society of Colonial Dames, both of which involved her in championing historical places in Maine. With The National Society of Colonial Dames, she was an active supporter of their museum house, the Tate House. She co-authored Tate House: Crown of the Maine Mast Trade with William David Barry, and wrote other pieces on the history of the Tate House, as well as of Sweetser Children’s Services, and the Stroudwater area of Portland.

Peabody was best known for her HIV/AIDS work, which she became passionate about following the death of her grandson, Peter Vom Lehn, in 1984. She joined an AIDS support group, and through the connections she made in the group, Peabody helped to establish the first AIDS hotline in Maine in 1985. In 1986 she established The AIDS Project (TAP), which became Maine’s largest AIDS service organization. On Valentine’s Day, 1995, she opened the Peabody House, which is the first and only assisted living facility in Maine for people with advanced stages of HIV. Tireless in her efforts to educate people about the disease, Peabody visited schools, churches, and civic groups. For over 10 years she led a weekly support group at TAP and never missed a meeting. Peabody was also a supporter of gay rights, and testified before the Maine Legislature on the gay rights bill. Her work was featured in several national publications, including The New York Times, Newsweek, McCall’s, and People. She was the recipient of many awards including the Human Rights Campaign Fund of Boston Special Award (1988), the Smith College Medal in 1992, and the 2000 National Leadership Award from the AIDS Action Committee. Peabody died on June 26, 2001 at age 98.

In 2002, TAP and the Peabody House merged into one organization to better serve the HIV/AIDS community. It was named the Frannie Peabody Center to honor Peabody’s dedication to the cause.