Today, we are bringing back our popular series First Lady Friday with Elizabeth Cheever Osborn. She was born on August 8, 1858 in East Boston. In 1891, she married Lyman P. Osborn, president of the Warren National Bank. They lived at 55 Central Street.

Elizabeth Cheever Osborn
From Osborn Family Photo Album, circa 1880

Elizabeth was instrumental in the founding the Peabody Historical Society in 1896. Elizabeth served as the Society’s first secretary and later, its librarian and curator. From 1900 to 1905, she led a committee who visited 37 historic cemeteries in Peabody and transcribed the details of each headstone. This massive undertaking informs our work in Peabody’s historic cemeteries today.

Elizabeth was very active with other reform and academic organizations. She was a member of the Temperance Society, the Rebecca Nurse Association, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Unitarian Society and the Massachusetts Library Association. She also served as vice-president of the Ladies’ Association, as head of Peabody’s Red Cross Society, and as leader of the Visiting Nurse Association.

Elizabeth Cheever Osborn died on February 11, 1914. Her funeral service was held at the First Unitarian Church on Park Street.

The Salem Evening News, February 14, 1914

In honor of her achievements, a tablet in her memory was placed at the headquarters of the Peabody Historical Society. The portrait below still hangs at the General Gideon Foster House today.


In a 1931 tribute, Rev. George Penniman said:

“I remember distinctly the first time I met Mrs. Elizabeth Cheever Osborn. I had been in Peabody but a few days and knew but a few persons even by sight. She introduced herself to me and said at once ‘I hope you are going to join our Historical Society and help us. We need you.’ This was a new point of view to me…I soon saw her meaning and the wisdom of her approach…all public enterprises need the help of all far more than we realize.”


Obituary, Elizabeth Cheever Osborn, The Salem Evening News, February 12 and 14, 1914.

Archives of the Peabody Historical Society and Museum, 1896 to 1914.