Western’s first principal is said to still wander the halls

Helen Peabody

What we now call Miami’s Western Campus started as the Western Female Seminary in 1853. It was a daughter school of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

Miss Helen Peabody, an alumna of Mount Holyoke, was Western’s first principal, 1855-1888. She was said to be very strict, yet very kind. Under her leadership, the students took turns preparing meals, washing dishes and sweeping floors so they didn’t have to pay outside help.

Western enjoyed a cordial, if not always warm, relationship with neighboring Miami University.

During the 19th century in particular, contact between the men and women of the two institutions was strictly controlled by administrators concerned for the moral well-being of their charges.

Miss Peabody was an outspoken opponent of coeducation, was especially protective of her students and always suspicious of the Miami men who occasionally, and not always innocently, wandered onto Western property.

After 33 years at Western, she announced her retirement at the 1888 commencement. She moved to California, where she died in 1905.

Miss Peabody took her convictions to the grave.

In fact, according to some witnesses, her spirit leaves the tomb occasionally to watch over the women of Peabody Hall and to haunt the men who now dare to walk its corridors. Those who have seen her claim that Helen Peabody remains in death, as she was in life, a very formidable woman.

This is part two of our three-part series, “Miami Mysteries,” a look at some of the university’s spookiest legends and lore, just in time for Halloween! Don’t miss our final spine-tingling tale on Friday. We dug into our archives so we could share with you the late-President Shriver’s recounting of sophomore Ron Tammen’s disappearance in 1953.

One thought on “The ghost of Helen Peabody

  1. Thanks to the formidable Helen Peabody, Western existed for the hundreds of women who were educated and found their voice at this special place. Beth Cramp Dague, WC class of ‘72.

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