Biographical / Historical
Abigail Hopper Gibbons (1801-1893) was an important figure in many of the reform movements in the middle and late nineteenth century. Like her father, Isaac T. Hopper (1771-1852), "Abby" Gibbons was an ardent abolitionist and dedicated to prison reform. She served as a Civil War nurse and visited army camps in that period and also was a welfare worker. After the War, she established a "Labor and Aid Society" to provide work for returning veterans. Abby Hopper Gibbons was one of the founders of the Women's Prison Association and The Isaac T. Hopper Home in New York City, which was established to aid former prisoners' return to society. Many of the leading reformers of the day were entertained in her New York City home; the house was destroyed by a mob during the 1863 draft riots.
Abigail Hopper Gibbons was born in Philadelphia in 1801, the third of ten children. In 1833, she married fellow Quaker, James Sloan Gibbons, in New York City. Both before and after her marriage, she directed Quaker schools. Like her father and her husband, she was deeply committed to anti-slavery concerns. After they were disowned by the New York Monthly Meeting (Hicksite) in 1841 for their writing and testimonies against slavery, the following year she resigned her membership, along with her four minor children. Nonetheless, the family remained "Quakerly" in worship and life-style.
Abigail and James Gibbons had six children. Two boys died in infancy, and a third son died suddenly after an accident while a student at Harvard. Many of the letters in the collection reflect the concerns of family life. Abigail Hopper Gibbons remained active in reform concerns into old age, and in her later years dressed dolls in Quaker dress to present to quarantined and hospitalized children.
Some of the correspondence in this collection were published in abbreviated form in 1897 for a biography, The Life of Abby Hopper Gibbons, Told Chiefly through her Correspondence, edited by her daughter, Sarah Hopper Emerson. T The bulk of the correspondence concerns the Civil War years, and Abigail Hopper Gibbons's work to assist Union officers. The collection consists of about 1,680 letters and related material, primarily letters to and from Abigail Hopper Gibbons, but also including correspondence of her husband and other family members. From the Civil War years, there are many letters from Union soldiers. The collection offers a valuable resource to scholars of nineteenth century reform movements. Included are letters from prominent figures including Theodore Roosevelt, Lydia Maria Child, and Joseph H. Choate.