<a The event that brought the civil rights movement in St. Augustine to international attention was the arrest of Mary Parkman Peabody (1891-1981), the 72-year old mother of the Governor of Massachusetts (Endicott (Chub) Peabody) , for trying to be served in a racially integrated group at the Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge on March 31, 1964.
The socially prominent Mrs. Peabody, whose husband was an Episcopal bishop, and who was related to Eleanor Roosevelt, stayed here at 177 Twine Street when she was not in the St. Johns County Jail. She was the guest of Mrs. Loucille Plummer (1924-1978) a nurse and civil rights activist.
Mrs. Plummer's house was the target of a firebombing attempt in 1965 because of her civil rights activities, but she did not let that dissuade her. According to Audrey Nell Edwards (one of the St. Augustine Four), Loucille Plummer "was a rock" in the cause of equal rights.
Mary Parkman Peabody, the eldest of five children of Henry Parkman and Mary Frances (Parker) Parkman, was born on July 24, 1891, in Beverly, Massachusetts. She attended the Winsor School in Boston, Massachusetts, and Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut. In 1912, after inheriting money from an uncle, she embarked on a trip around the world with two friends and a chaperone, traveling to India, Burma, Ceylon, China, Japan, and the Philippines. After returning, she took classes at Simmons College School of Social Work and in 1916, she married Malcolm Peabody, son of Fannie and Endicott Peabody, the founder of Groton School. They had five children: Mary, known as Marietta (1917-1991), Endicott (1920-1997), George (born 1922), Samuel (born 1925), and Malcolm, Jr. (born 1928).
The couple settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Malcolm Peabody was first curate and then rector of Grace Episcopal Church. Shortly after the birth of their first child, Malcolm Peabody began service as a World War I chaplain in France. During his absence, Mary Peabody worked with the Women’s Liberty Loan committee, which encouraged women to buy Liberty Bonds to support the troops, and was active in community welfare projects. Malcolm Peabody returned to Lawrence in 1919, and in 1925 the Peabodys moved to Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, where he served as rector of St. Paul’s Church; in 1938 he was elected bishop coadjutor of central New York and became bishop the following year. The Peabodys relocated first to Utica and then to Syracuse, New York. Mary Peabody taught religious classes for public school students in Syracuse and took in German and Austrian refugees during World War II. In 1960, Malcolm Peabody retired and the Peabodys moved again, to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1964, at the age of 72, Mary Peabody was recruited by a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join a civil rights demonstration in St. Augustine, Florida. She traveled with Hester Campbell, wife of the dean of the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Florence Rowe (mother-in-law of her son Malcolm), and Esther Burgess, wife of the first black Episcopal bishop in the United States. At the request of the demonstation’s leader, Dr. Robert Hayling, Peabody and her companions attempted to get service at local restaurants and hotels. They were refused and Peabody was arrested for participating in a sit-in at a segregated motel dining room; she spent two nights in jail, drawing praise from Martin Luther King, Jr. Her son Endicott was governor of Massachusetts at the time, and partly because of this, her arrest drew a great deal of press coverage and she received large amounts of mail both praising and condemning her actions.
Following her return to Cambridge, Peabody remained active in the civil rights struggle and made many public appearances. She also worked for the rights of American Indians and the establishment of a school in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Malcolm Peabody died in 1974 and Mary Peabody died of heart failure on February 6, 1981.