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Rediscovering a woman of conscience

Author Elizabeth Fideler of Framingham.Handout

In 2014, Framingham author Elizabeth Fideler was looking for a new book project when she came across an idea she hadn’t previously considered: profiling an individual who was highly accomplished, yet not famous.

“I knew Margaret Pearmain Welch to be a very interesting woman, but after my research, I understood how truly remarkable she was,” said Fideler, a research associate at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. “Her story deserved to be told.”

In “Margaret Pearmain Welch (1893-1984): Proper Bostonian, Activist, Pacifist, Reformer, Preservationist,” published last month by Wipf and Stock Publishers, Fideler describes the bygone era in which Welch was a debutante, world traveler, socialite, and dancer who founded and hosted Waltz Evenings in her Louisburg Square drawing room.


As Fideler notes, however, Welch also “defied the mores of her social set and got away with it.” While she provoked gossip and newspaper mentions for her divorce and remarriage to a prominent Bostonian who was also divorced, Welch became a resolute writer, lecturer, lobbyist, fund-raiser, and activist for women’s suffrage, reproductive rights, environmental protection, land conservation, worship without clergy, monetary reform, and world peace.

Welch’s country home was the 1787 Colonel Thomas Nixon House on Edmands Road next to the Framingham Friends Meetinghouse, which she cofounded with like-minded Quakers. Welch also owned the Stearns Farm land across the road, which was managed for many years by her companion and caregiver, Penelope Turton.

In fact, Fideler met Welch in 1975 on a walk hosted by the Sudbury Valley Trustees on land donated by Welch. Fideler’s husband, Paul, volunteered alongside Welch as a draft counselor in 1979, after which time the couple was invited to Welch’s home.

“I admired Margaret for her dignity, conviction, and activism in a time and place whose values and traditions have all but disappeared,” Fideler said. “She was a woman of conscience who deserves to be celebrated.”


Fideler, a trustee of the Framingham Public Library and chair of Framingham Reads Together, will host a book reading and signing on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at the McAuliffe Branch Library, 746 Water St.

For more information, visit wipfandstock.com.

Cindy Cantrell can be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.