Sarah Worthington Peter

  • Ohio Historical Society

Sarah Worthington King Peter was born on May 10, 1800, in Chillicothe, Ohio. Her father was Thomas Worthington, an Ohio senator. In 1816 she married Edward King, the son of Rufus King, who was a New York senator, and later, U.S. minister to Great Britain. Coming from a strong political background she had advantages that were unusual for a woman of her time, and she did not let those go to waste. In 1831, Sarah and Edward moved from Chillicothe to Cincinnati, Ohio. The couple had two sons and remained together until Edward's death in 1836.


Following Edward’s death, she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to be closer to her sons while they studied at Harvard. Once they graduated Sarah settled in Philadelphia, where she met William Peter, the British consul to the city. They were married in 1844. Sarah Peter always had an affinity for philanthropy and the arts, as well as a prominent social position, and in Philadelphia she continued her charitable efforts. In 1848 she founded the Philadelphia School of Design for Women in a spare room of her house on 3rd and Spruce Streets. The mission of the school was to “instruct young girls, who have to support themselves, in the arts of drawing, design, and wood engraving, in the belief that they will be able to succeed in these branches of home industry, not only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of American manufacturers…”[1] Mr. Peter died in 1853, at which time Sarah moved back to Cincinnati. There she started the Ladies' Academy of Fine Arts, modeled after PSDW, which grew into the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts. The academy and the collections she amassed from her travels in Europe together played a formative role in the development of the Cincinnati Museum of Art. She died in Cincinnati on February 6, 1877.




[1] Theodore C. Kmauff, An Experiment in Training for the Useful and the Beautiful, (Philadelphia: Philadelphia School of Design for Women, 1922) , 8-13.