Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Merrie (also Marie) Hoover Abbott, 1877-1946
By Susan Barnum, Librarian
Jacob and Cynthia Hoover, were early residents of Clinton County, Michigan. Their daughter, Merrie Hoover, was born in St. Johns, Michigan about 1877, where she grew up and attended high school. Afterwards, she studied shorthand in Ypsilanti. Various surviving census and marriage records provide varying dates for her birth between 1872 and 1885.
She moved to Chicago, where she worked as a stenographer. She met Charles Stewart Abbott in the early 1890s when she worked at Marshall Field & Co. The two got married in 1894 in West Branch, Michigan. The couple both went on to study law at the University of Michigan, starting in 1895. She began to practice law with her husband in the Abbott and Abbott firm in West Branch after graduating law school in 1898.
In 1898, the Silver Democrats of Ogemaw County nominated Abbott to run for the position of prosecuting attorney for Ogemaw County in Michigan. The nomination was often described as a "practical joke," but nevertheless, Abbott took it seriously and ran a good campaign. She was elected by a majority of four votes and was the only Democratic nominee to win a race in that election. Her win marked the first time a woman was elected to a constitutional office in Michigan and the first woman in the United States to become a County Prosecuting Attorney. She took office on January 1, 1899. Her right to hold office was immediately challenged by the state attorney general under quo warranto proceedings. She was forced out of office by October 1899. The Supreme Court of Michigan, with one dissenting opinion, decided that according to the state constitution, because she was not eligible to vote and was therefore not an elector, she could not hold office. The case could not be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Despite the court challenges, the 156 cases that Abbott prosecuted and won during her ten months in office were upheld.
Abbott and her husband moved to Detroit where they went on to practice law. Abbott argued some cases in court and also took care of the office she shared with her husband. One of her most famous cases involved Rose Barron who was accused of poisoning around a dozen people. On December 24, 1906, Abbott gave birth to a son. They eventually had two children, Manton and Addison. Addison died in 1913.
Abbott was nominated to the Michigan State Hospital Board in 1921. She served on the board from 1922 to 1927. Abbott retired from practicing law in Detroit in 1934.
Abbott died of a heart attack in New York City and was brought back to Michigan for the funeral service. Abbott was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. IV. (Indianapolis: Hollenbeck Press, 1902) [LINK]
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1922) [LINK]
"Attorney's Son is Dead." Detroit Free Press. January 13, 1913. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74949833/.
"Buy Control in Abbott Company." Detroit Free Press. July 30, 1910. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74957122/.
"Charles Stewart Abbott." Student Profile. Retrieved from http://www.law.umich.edu/historyandtraditions/students/Pages/ProfilePage.aspx?SID=5731&Year=1897
"Directory: Law Class of 1898" (1898). Yearbooks & Class Year Publications. 20. Retrieved from https://repository.law.umich.edu/class_pubs/20
"'First' Title Held By Detroit Woman." Detroit Free Press. November 15, 1936. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74883452/.
"Green Names Personnel of State Boards." The News-Palladium. March 25, 1927. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74972240/.
"Kissed Her Bailor." Detroit Free Press. June 9, 1905. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74882737/.
Marquis, Albert Nelson. The Book of Detroiters: a Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Detroit. 2nd ed., Chicago: A.N. Marquis, 1914. Retrieved from Hathi Trust https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008652883/Home.
"Matron and Maid." Hornellsville Weekly Tribune. November 17, 1899. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74867069/
"Michigan's First Woman Lawyer Dies." Traverse City Record-Eagle. November 1, 1946. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74867427/.
"Mrs. Abbott of Ogemaw." The Inter Ocean. October 19, 1899. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/45064266/.
"Mrs. Merrie B. Abbott." The Record Union. December 7, 1898. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74877073/.
"Nominated as a Joke." The Farmer's Advocate. April 12, 1899. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74868599/
"Nominated as a Joke." The North Adams Transcript. December 9, 1898. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74868943/.
"Pioneer Auto Maker, Lapeer Native, Dies." The Times Herald. March 14, 1946. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74957738/.
"Prison Board Named." Battle Creek Enquirer. June 12, 1921. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74880664/.
Sharlow, Carrie. "Michigan Lawyers in History: Merrie Hoover Abbott." Michigan Bar Journal. May 2018, 40-41. Retrieved from http://www.michbar.org/file/barjournal/article/documents/pdf4article3384.pdf
"She Was Elected." The Manning Times. November 23, 1898. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74876858/.
"Will Apply for Their Baby's Admission to the Bar of Michigan." Detroit Free Press. December 30, 1906. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74884806/.
"Woman as Public Prosecutor." Edgefield Advertiser. January 11, 1899. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74866835.
"Woman For Prosecutor." The News-Palladium. November 11, 1898. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74876319/.
"Woman in Politics." Ironwood News-Record. November 19, 1898. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74880969/.
"Woman Member of Board Keeps Busy." February 25, 1922. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74883281//
"Woman Ordered Ousted." St. Louis Globe-Democrat. October 18, 1899. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74868105/.
"Woman Suffragists Receive Hard Blow." The World. October 28, 1899. Retrieved from Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74877535/.
"Women Lawyers of Detroit." Detroit Free Press. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/clip/74882465/.
From The Farmers Advocate, 12 April 1899.
From the Record-Union, 7 December 1898
From the Detroit Free Press, 22 April 1906