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The Iron Peacock

post written by Emma Filbrun

The Iron Peacock by Mary Stetson ClarkeTitle: The Iron Peacock
Author: Mary Stetson Clarke
Major Themes: English Civil War, Iron, New England, Puritans
Synopsis: Joanna becomes an indentured servant in New England after her father’s death on a ship going to the New World leaves her penniless.

I was glad to have the chance to read The Iron Peacock aloud recently. I had read it to myself a number of years ago, and remembered it being fairly good, but I always get more out of a book when I read it aloud. Esther says she’s read it a couple of times and loved it.

Joanna’s father died on board ship just before the two of them reached the New World. They had been forced to flee England when Cromwell’s soldiers tried to capture them because her father was a Royalist, and then he became sick with a fever. Now, in the winter of 1650, Joanna finds herself alone, a 16-year-old girl owing a debt she cannot pay in a strange land.

As soon as the ship landed in Boston, Joanna was lined up with all the Scots who had been taken prisoner after the battle of Dunbar; all of them were to be sold as indentured servants. Joanna could hardly bear the thought of serving someone for five years, but she soon found herself traveling to the Iron Works at Hammersmith with 62 of the Scots, to work as a kitchenmaid for the Iron Master and his wife. When the minister’s wife encouraged her to try to bring some love into the unhappy home she found herself in, she started to accept her new life, but what really helped her become happier again was the friendship of the Widow Talbot and Ross, the Scotch bagpiper. Would Ross stay, though, or would he run away? And what would become of Yaweta, the young Indian girl whose father made her live with the minister’s family?

This is one of those books that has many different threads woven through it. Even though my boys knew ahead of time what would happen in the last chapter (they are becoming very astute at recognizing romance), they begged for more to be read a number of times. There was sadness as well as happiness, near-tragedy and triumph, and racial tensions as well as religious tension. The historical aspect is great, too; a few days after we finished this book we read in one of our history texts about the English Civil War between Cromwell’s men and the Roundheads, the supporters of Charles I. Because we had just read The Iron Peacock, everyone could relate to the history we were reading. That’s what I like most about historical fiction—it gives a “hook” to hang historical facts on. I really enjoyed it and am glad to have had the chance to share it with my children.

WARNING: A woman committed suicide in the second chapter, and a man was poisoned in chapter 18.

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15


Links to buy The Iron Peacock:

Amazon: Paperback | Hardcover

AbeBooks: View Choices on


English Civil War, Iron, New England, Puritans

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