Peabody’s Sutton Home provides a safe place for women

Janet Golub, a resident at the Sutton Home in Peabody, enjoys the shade of the front porch as she reads a novel. (Spenser R. Hasak)

PEABODY — Nine months ago, Gloria Deveaux made a life-changing decision that led her to a 19th century estate with an expansive lawn and big carriage.

Deveaux didn’t move from her West Peabody home to a small country town: She moved to the Sutton Home for Women on Sewall Street just blocks from downtown.

“I didn’t want to be alone anymore,” said the 95-year-old. 

Deveaux is one of 11 women currently living in the big two-story house that looks like it should be surrounded by rolling fields in Rowley or Western Massachusetts. 

With a bedroom assigned to each resident, and hallways and common rooms decorated with paintings and antique furniture, Sutton Home provides three meals a day, housekeeping and laundry services, medication reminders and other assistance to its residents for a $2,400 a month fee. 

Some residents draw on their own income and savings to pay the fee and others are supported by their family. 

“We’re basically a lodging house but the women feel safe. There is someone here 24 hours a day,” said Home Board of Directors Secretary Susan Smith. 

Sutton Director Barbara S. Amos and her staff will transform the big front lawn into a festive place on Sept. 15 when Sutton celebrates the 100th anniversary of the bequeathment of the Sewall Street residence and its companion building and land by the daughter of its builder to Sutton. 

“It’s going to be a celebration to recognize everyone who has kept it going,” said Amos. 

According to a brief history of the home, local Ladies Benevolent Society member Eliza Sutton led the charge in 1867 to find a permanent home for elderly women in Peabody.

The Society built a house on Washington Street near Oak Street in 1871 and sold it in 1883 to lease the Sutton mansion on Main Street. The Sutton Home for Aged Women was incorporated in 1899 and the search for a new home began several years later. 

In 1919, Lydia W. Thacher, daughter of Peabody merchant Abel Proctor who built the Sewall Street estate, donated $5,000 to the Home, setting in motion a fundraising effort that resulted in the property’s purchase for use as a residence for women. 

Smith said Sutton had a handful of residents when she joined the board with her husband, retired Peabody firefighter Stanley Smith, in 1986. Subsequent changes in board membership focused the board more precisely on helping women who were too healthy to go to a nursing home but financially unable to move into an assisted living facility.

As a nonprofit charity, Sutton relies in part on support from an endowment overseen by the board, said Amos. 

Smith said Amos’ hiring in 2009 propelled the board’s objectives forward. Amos and her 11 coworkers maintain close relationships, where possible, with residents’ families and ensure women maintain independent lives through associations with friends, outings, and events and activities throughout Peabody.

“She’s our gem,” Smith said of Amos. 

Group life at Sutton revolves around meals where guests have hand-made cards bearing their name next to their plate and the big front porch where resident Janet Golub enjoys reading on a nice day.

Resident Virginia Pelletier has lived most of her life in Peabody and taught in Beverly. She has lived in Sutton for six months and enjoys knitting prayer shawls.

“I need to be with people and I like being with people here,” Pelletier said.

Smith and Amos said city officials and elder care community representatives will be invited to the Sept. 15 celebration. The home plans to start its next 100 years off with a name change to the Sutton Residence for Women to reflect the board’s interest in providing housing for young and old women alike.

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