Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Abigail C. Moore French, 1851-1917

By Maddie Hagan, student-researcher, University of Montana, Missoula, MT

Treasurer of the Oregon Women Suffrage Association, Home Economics Director of the Portland Women's Research Club, and Medical Practitioner of Magnetic Massage

Abigail C. Moore French, known during her married life as “Mrs. Abbie C. French,” was born in April 1851 in Ohio. Born Abigail C. Moore, she was raised in Iowa. She married Henry A. French, and they had one son, Lloyd A. French, (b. 1873). By 1880, the family was living in Orange, Massachusetts, where the census listed Abbie French's occupation as “keeps house.” In 1891, the Frenches were residents of Portland, Oregon, where they would live until their deaths. Abbie French engaged in nearly two decades of activism and professional work.

While living in Portland, Abbie French was a strong supporter of woman suffrage, working alongside prominent suffrage leaders such as Abigail Scott Duniway and serving as the treasurer of the Oregon Women's Suffrage Association from at least 1900 to 1912, when the state adopted woman suffrage. An Oregonian newspaper article from May 1903 listed French as a member of the welcoming committee for First Lady Edith Roosevelt's visit to Oregon with her husband, President Theodore Roosevelt. In solidarity with the Pioneer Women of Oregon, the Oregon Equal Suffragists presented Edith Roosevelt with two oil paintings that depicted Oregon scenery and a letter for the President advocating for the “dignity of women.” In 1913, a Nebraska newspaper, the Alliance Herald, quoted Abbie French in an article about national suffrage: “You doubtless notice that our men in the Oregon legislature are acting as though they realized we were future voters and are giving us good laws. That little weapon we have acquired will bring the chivalry all right--the kind we want.” An obituary from the Oregon Daily Journal on October 28, 1917, described Mrs. French as rejoicing “in the exercise of the franchise when allowed by the voters of Oregon” and indicated that she had “early identified herself with the cause of equal suffrage.”

In addition to her work as a suffragist, Abbie French was interested in healthcare. An obituary described her as having a “natural aptitude for caring for the sick.” Because of this aptitude, she had a well-advertised occupation as a “magnetic masseur.” The practice and teaching of magnetic massage—a combination of energy work and hands-on massage—was nearly extinct by 1900, but French continued practicing it well into the twentieth century. From about 1900 to 1910, she advertised her business at “66 Lewis Building,” an office building located in the heart of downtown Portland. Additionally, Mrs. French's business can be traced to Topeka, Kansas, where an 1887 city directory listed her profession as “magnetic healer.” Catering to a female-only clientele, French advertised her drug-free treatment of “nervous diseases” and “prostration.” She also taught “physical culture and the care of the body,” and “physical hygiene.”

Later in life, Abbie French became the home economics director of the Portland Women's Research Club, an organization devoted to the “study of national and state municipal government, economics, current topics and parliamentary law.” Consistent with national trends, the Portland Women's Research Club engaged in civic reform, sometimes known as “social housekeeping” because it allowed women to apply their domestic expertise to the public sphere. One of the Portland Women's Research Club's most well-documented events was a series of luncheons that hosted guest speakers to discuss topics such as “The American Patriotic Spirit,” the legislature, and “Things Women Can Do to Make Portland a Better City to Live In,” all of which encouraged women to extend their influence into the public arena.

Abigail C. French died on October 21, 1917, at her home near Portland. She was incinerated at the Mt. Scott Park Crematorium, and her remains were buried in Lincoln Memorial Park in Portland. Her husband died in a hiking accident the following year.


CAPTION: Mrs. Abbie C. French, ca. 1917.
CREDIT: “Friends are Grieved at the News of Death.” Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, OR). October 28, 1917, p.30.


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“Presented with Two Paintings: Oregon Scenery on Canvas for Mrs. Roosevelt.” Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR). May 22, 1903, p.10. Historic Oregon Newspapers.

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U.S. Census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Lents, Multnomah, Oregon; Roll: T624_1288; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0116; FHL microfilm: 1375301.

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“Will Not Give Up: Equal Suffrage Association to Try Again.” Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR). July 9, 1906, p.12. Historic Oregon Newspapers.

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