Biographical Sketch of Helen Probst Abbott

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Helen Probst Abbott, 1879-1970

By Jodell A. Raymond, Adjunct Faculty Business Administration & Economics, State University of New York, Monroe Community College

Helen Probst Abbott was born on March 13, 1879 in Rochester, New York to John G Probst and Agnes I. Thayer. She was a graduate of the Rochester Free Academy and a 1901 graduate of St. Lawrence University. In 1902, she married Henry Worth Pickett Abbott of Gouverneur, New York. She lived there until his death in 1910. She adopted a daughter, Anne Probst in 1908. She died in 1970 in Rochester, New York. She is interred at Riverside Cemetery in Gouverneur.

After her husband's death, she returned to Rochester with her daughter and from 1912-1918 served as an advocate for women, working to improve their legal status. She was President of Rochester Political Equality Club and Chair of Monroe County Woman Suffrage Association. Mrs. Abbott was also one of the founders of the Woman's City Club and a leader in women's civic activities. She was instrumental in having a city manager form of municipal government. She was Vice Chair of the City Manager Committee. In 1927, she ran unsuccessfully as the first female city council candidate of the East District of Rochester, having been named on the Democratic ticket. Very active in civic and political affairs, Mrs. Abbott occupied the office of Chairman of the Christmas Bureau, Council of Social Agencies, was President of the Rochester Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served on the Board of Directors of the Y. M. C. A. She served as President of the Board of Directors of the private Harley School, and served as a trustee of St. Lawrence University.

Her work in organizing the Rochester Woman's City Club attracted the attention of Miss Anne Morgan, Founder and the Executive Director of the American Woman's Association and daughter of financier J. P. Morgan. In 1932, she left Rochester for New York City when Anne Morgan appointed her as the Executive Director of the American Woman's Association (AWA), an organization which helped women invest their own money for leisurely pursuits. Mrs. Probst directed the activities for over 4,000 women of the AWA, who took part in study groups, lectures and other activities which ranged from art to music and drama.

Mrs. Abbott returned to Rochester in 1937 to speak at the Woman's Education and Industrial Union. She made headlines when she said that women had not done enough in the areas of industrial or social reforms. In her address to the delegation she said, "We know that women are good, but not good enough. And it is questionable if women are pulling their own weight in solving those perplexing problems of the day." She challenged women not to hide behind their roles as homemakers. She reminded women that the modern woman does not have to choose one role over the other, but to embrace the idea that she can have a career and a family. She urged women to get involved in politics and civic matters on a consistent basis and, "plan to meet the challenges of modern times and modern freedom."

Sources:

https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25920571 accessed 5 March 2017; also at

https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=25920571 image of grave marker

Biography of Women. Volume IV. Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County Historic Scrapbooks Collection. http://www.libraryweb.org/~digitized/scrapbooks/biography_of_women/vol_4.pdf accessed 5 March 2017

Biography of Women. Volume VI. Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County Historic Scrapbooks Collection. http://www.libraryweb.org/~digitized/scrapbooks/biography_of_women/vol_6.pdf accessed 5 March 2017

Biography of Women. Volume X. Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County Historic Scrapbooks Collection. http://www.libraryweb.org/~digitized/scrapbooks/biography_of_women/vol_10.pdf accessed 5 March 2017

My NY Genealogy accessible at http://mcnygenealogy.com/vr/adoptions.htm accessed 5 March 2017

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