Edmands Road resident and Stearns Farm neighbor Elizabeth Fideler has written a biography of Margaret Welch, the Boston socialite and activist who owned the Stearns Farm land during the last century.

Margaret Pearmain Welch (1893-1984): Proper Bostonian, Activist, Pacifist, Reformer, Preservationist, chronicles the life of the Boston Brahmin hostess known for her “Waltz Evenings” as well as her advocacy for women’s suffrage, reproductive rights, environmental protection and other causes.  

Welch divided her time between the historic Nixon House across the street from the farm and her home in Boston’s Louisburg Square. She was descended from 17th-century dissenter Anne Hutchinson. Penelope Turton, Welch’s companion and caregiver, farmed the land across the street from Nixon House that became Stearns Farm.

“Pacifism was one of the principal links between Margaret Welch and Penelope Turton,” says Fideler. The two women founded the Framingham Friends Meeting in the 1960s, and were known as the prime movers behind the New England Quaker Witness for Peace on Boston Common, a silent vigil that has been held annually for more than a half century.

“A second strong link between Margaret and Penelope was organic gardening,” Fideler adds. Turton lived in a cottage between the Friends Meeting House and the Nixon House, selling produce from the farm stand across the street or in the natural food shop that she managed inside her house. Turton’s interest in “natural” farming may have been influenced by Welch’s brother Jack, who had an orchard on Nobscot Mountain; or Turton may have been inspired by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, about the adverse effects of pesticide use. “Regardless, Penelope was said to be ‘one of the earliest and most ardent champions of the organic movement in America,'” Fideler says.

Fideler will talk about her book and sign copies at an event this spring sponsored by Stearns Farm and Sudbury Valley Trustees. Watch our newsletter for details! The book can be ordered from Wipf and Stock Publishers at orders@wipfandstock.com or by phone at (541) 344-1528.