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Abel, Annie Heloise (1873–1947) - Native American History

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Annie Heloise Abel was born in Fernhurst, Sussex, England, on February 18, 1873, the first daughter and the third of seven children of George and Amelia Anne (Hogban) Abel. The Abels had immigrated to the United States in 1871 and then returned to England. They immigrated again in 1884 and settled in Salina, Kansas, where Annie joined them the following year.

Abel graduated from Salina High School in 1893 and taught for two years before entering the University of Kansas. She received a B.A. degree in 1898, then served for a year as manuscript reader in the English department. She entered graduate school in history, and her thesis, “Indian Reservations in Kansas and the Extinguishment of Their Title,” resulted in an M.A. degree in 1900. She continued to research and write on Native American affairs while furthering her education at Cornell University, where she received her Ph.D. in 1905. She was awarded the Justin Winsor Prize in 1906 for her dissertation, “The History of Events Resulting in Indian Consolidation West of the Mississippi,” which was published in the Annual Report of the American Historical Association.

In 1905 Abel began teaching history at Wells College. She then taught at the Woman’s College of Baltimore (Goucher College) as an instructor, associate professor (1908), and professor and head of the department (1914). She also taught English history at the Teachers College of Johns Hopkins University from 1910 to 1915. She joined the faculty of Smith College in 1915 and served as an associate professor and professor until 1922.

Abel continued to research and write on Native American history while teaching. She published the first volume of The Slaveholding Indians , entitled The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist: An Omitted Chapter in the Diplomatic History of the Southern Confederacy , in 1915. The second volume, The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War , was published in 1919, and the third, The American Indian Under Reconstruction , in 1925. She also edited The Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun While Indian Agent at Santa Fe and Superintendent of Indian Affairs in New Mexico in 1915 and A Report from Natchitoches in 1807 by Dr. John Sibley in 1922.

In addition to her research on Native Americans, Abel also actively researched the development of the British Empire. She received a sabbatical from Smith College in 1921–1922 and went to London, New Zealand, and Australia. While researching in the University of Adelaide library in Australia, she met historian George Cockburn Henderson. She returned to her teaching position at Smith College briefly, then returned to Australia to marry Henderson on October 27, 1922. Unfortunately, Abel-Henderson was described as “disturbed and unhappy” after the marriage, and her husband was hospitalized for insomnia and depression. His mental health declined and he insisted on a divorce.

Abel-Henderson returned to the United States and settled in Aberdeen, Washington, where she was acting professor of history at Sweet Briar College for the school year 1924–25. She spent two winters in Canada studying British policy toward the aborigines and spent another year in England. The result was A Sidelight on Anglo-American Relations, 1839–1858 , written with Frank J. Klingberg in 1927. She published an edition of the correspondence of Lewis Tappan entitled Chardon’s Journal at Fort Clark, 1834–1839 in 1932, and Tabeau’s Narrative of Loisel’s Expedition to the Upper Missouri in 1939. In between she wrote critical reviews for the American Historical Review and the Mississippi Valley Historical Review .

Abel-Henderson’s personal life was devoted to various causes. She was president of the Maryland branch of the College Equal Suffrage League from 1913 to 1915. She was active in the Washington State Society of Daughters of the British Empire and served as president for two years. Her work during World War II with the British-American War Relief Association in Seattle resulted in a decoration from the British government in September 1946.

Abel-Henderson died of cancer at Aberdeen, Washington, in 1947 after a long illness. Most of her research notes are at Washington State University.


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Please allow me to correct some errors in your biography of Annie Heloise Abel.
1. Her mother's maiden name was Hogben.
2. She only briefly attended Cornell and undertook doctoral studies at Yale.
3.At Johns Hopkins she also taught American History courses.
4.She did not go to London in 1921/22 (although she had intended to) and after meeting her future husband in Adelaide, Australia, did not resume teaching at Smith although she did return briefly to the US before her marriage.
Please refer to my doctoral thesis which can be found at

James S. Anderson