Katharine Peabody Loring (1849-1943)

Historian & Educator

Katharine Peabody Loring was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, on May 21, 1849, to Caleb William Loring, president of the Plymouth Cordage Company, and Elizabeth Peabody. 

Loring was never formally educated, but voraciously read literature and travelled widely, making up for her lack of formal training. Both of her brothers had successful political careers and often sought her advice on foreign affair issues of the day. Her bother, William Caleb Loring, was a justice of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Her other brother, Augustus Peabody Loring, was a Republican politician and member of the Constitutional Convention of 1917.

Alice James (reclining) and Katharine Peabody Loring, taken at the Royal Leamington Spa (England), c. 1890

Because of her interest in politics and foreign affairs, Loring helped Anna Ticknor found the Society to Encourage Studies at Home in 1873 to contribute to women's education. She became head of the history department and held her position there for 20 years.

At the school, she would develop a lifelong partnership with renown diarist, Alice James.

Upon meeting Loring, James wrote to her friend, Sarah Darwin,

I wish you could know Katharine Loring [...] she is a most wonderful being. She has all the mere brute superiority which distinguishes man from woman combined with all the distinctively feminine virtues. There is nothing she cannot do from hewing wood and drawing water to driving runaway horses and educating all the women in North America.

Alice James, Personal Correspondence 1879

In the spring of 1888, while traveling to Florida and South Carolina with her father and sister, Loring met Annie Adams Fields and Sarah Orne Jewett, another same-sex couple with whom she would become lifelong friends.

Her sister, Louisa Putnam Loring, also helped out at the school. Louisa had tuberculosis and often had to be taken care of by Katharine. Later the Loring sisters participated in humanitarian activities throughout World War I with the American Red Cross. They also did relief work after the Great Salem fire of 1914 and were active in combatting tuberculosis by founding the Anti-Tuberculosis Society of Beverly.

In 1871 Loring, together with Julia Ward Howe, founded the Saturday Morning Club, an organization for women's communal and intellectual growth in Boston. In addition to women's organizations, Loring was also a key stakeholder for the establishment of the Beverly Public Library, of which she was also a trustee. She was also president of the Beverly Historical Society for 23 years, from 1918 to 1941, advocating the acquisition of the John Balch House and the John Hale House, both properties currently in the National Register of Historic Places.

Always low-sighted, Katharine Loring became completely blind in old age, and taught herself braille. She died at 94 years old, on August 16, 1943. 

She was buried with her sister Louisa, who died earlier in 1924, in lot 3904 on Holly Path.