Biographical Sketch of Minnie D. Abbott

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Minnie D. Abbott, 1866-?

By Lisa Hendrickson, Independent Historian

Secretary of the Atlantic City branch of the Congressional Union, Suffrage Prisoner at Occoquan Workhouse

Teacher, protestor, and suffragist, Minnie D. Abbott was born circa 1866. It is probable that her parents were Lucinda and Benjamin D. Abbott from St Lawrence County, NY. Before WWI, Abbott worked as a school teacher at Public School #2 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. During the war, she worked in a “man's job” on the railroad. Unlike many suffragists, Abbott was not wealthy or socially prominent. Unfortunately, much of Abbott's personal information remains unknown, including her death date.

Abbott joined and held leadership positions in several suffrage organizations, including the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU), and the New Jersey branch of the National Woman's Party (NWP). She served as secretary of the Atlantic City district of the CU and as officer of the New Jersey Woman's Party. It is likely that she joined the CU because CU suffragists were sympathetic to working women. Similarly, the NWP, formed in 1916, included a mix of disenchanted NAWSA members, and progressive, liberal, women; a group that likely appealed to working women like Abbott. It is probable that Abbott attended the NAWSA's annual convention in Atlantic City, September 4-10, 1916. At this convention, attendees debated whether to focus on the federal amendment, on state efforts, or to work on both routes. In the end, they decided to work on both routes.

Abbott became one of the more militant members of the Atlantic City woman's suffrage movement. On March 1, 1917, she attended the NWP's annual convention in Washington, D.C. Three days later, Abbott, along with approximately 1,000 women suffragists, picketed the White House for two hours in the pouring rain. Public opinion around the picketing was mixed. Some individuals referred to the suffragists as unpatriotic and traitors. As noted in Iron Jawed Angels, The New York Times claimed that the picketing was "more irritating when done by women...men expect women to be wiser and better-mannered than themselves and are angry when they show themselves to be no better."

Four months later, on July 14, 1917, Abbott joined a group of suffragists to picket the White House again. The suffragists carried banners with the French Revolution motto, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” in honor of Bastille Day. They also carried banners asking the President, “how long must American women wait for Liberty?” Along with Julia Hurburt, Beatrice Kinkead, Pheobe Persons Scott, Allison Turnbull Hopkins, and eleven other suffragists Abbott was arrested for "unlawful assembly and obstructing traffic." The sixteen women were given the choice of paying a twenty-five dollar fine or spending sixty days at the Occoquan Workhouse outside Washington, D.C. They all refused to pay the fine and were sent to the workhouse, where they were forced to wear prison attire. When President Wilson pardoned them on July 17, they all initially refused release, insisting that they wanted women's suffrage, not a pardon. Abbott argued that the women acted “within [their rights]” and that they wanted “not personal liberty but political freedom.” The New Jersey Woman's Party held a big rally welcoming home the four New Jersey picketers on July 21. In the early twentieth-century over 500 suffragists were arrested for picketing the White House. Yet, many suffragists were never brought to trial and some had their sentences suspended or appealed. Abbott, however, actually served prison time.

Little is known about Abbott's other group memberships or activities. She is listed as a contributor to the 1920 pamphlet service of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), indicating her interest in the organization's work.

Sources:

Ancestry.com>: Federal Census- 1910

  • U.S. City Directories 1822-1995

Dodyk, Delight W., Education and Agitation: The Woman Suffrage Movement in New Jersey, (New Brunswick, NJ: PhD Dissertation Rutgers University, 1977), pp. 441, 473-74, 614.

Stevens, Doris, Jailed for Freedom, (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), pg. 354. https://books.google.com/books?id=R-GGAAAAMAAJ

Ford, Linda G., Iron Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the NWP 1913-1920, (New York: NYU Press, 1991), pg. 101, 151. https://books.google.com/books?id=C02IAAAAMAAJ

The Fight for Free Speech (New York: The American Civil Liberties Union, 1921), p. 19.

"Suffragettes Again Jailed in Capital." Los Angeles Herald, July 14, 1917, p. 1.

"Sixteen Militants Begin 60-Day Term." The Washington Post, July 18, 1917, p. 1.

 

“Bastille Day spells prison for sixteen suffragettes who picketed the White House. Miss Julia Hurlbut of Morristown, New Jersey, leading the sixteen members of the National Woman's Party who participated in the picketing demonstration in front of the White House, Washington, District of Columbia, July 14,1917, which led to their arrest. These sixteen women were sent to the workhouse at Occoquan, on July 17, 1917, upon their refusal to pay fines of $25 each, but were pardoned on July 19, 1917.” United States National Archives: War Department, 1789-9/18/1947. Series: American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917 - 1918#x200eRecord Group 165: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, 1860 - 1952. Local Identifier: 165-WW-(600A)2 ***Minnie Abbott is pictured in the photo (as she was in the first group of picketers), but it is not known which one she is,

 

Photograph of Minnie D. Abbott. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress: Individual Portraits Contained in the Records of the NWP. Container I:147.

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