Annie Heloise Abel (1873-1947) An Historian's History

Author: James Stephen Anderson

Anderson, James Stephen, 2006 Annie Heloise Abel (1873-1947) An Historian's History, Flinders University, School of International Studies

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Abstract Annie Heloise Abel (1873–1947) was one of only thirty American women to earn a PhD in history prior to the First World War. She was the first academically trained historian in the United States to consider the development of Indian–white relations and, although her focus was narrowly political and her methodology almost entirely archival-based, in this she was a pioneer. Raised in the bucolic atmosphere of a late-Victorian Sussex village, at the age of twelve she became an actual pioneer when her parents moved to the Kansas frontier in the 1880s. She was the third child and eldest daughter among seven remarkable siblings, children of a Scottish gardener, each of whom obtained a college education and fulfilled the American dream of financial stability and status. Annie Abel’s academic career was one of rare success for a woman of the period and she studied at Kansas, Cornell, Yale, and Johns Hopkins universities. She was the first woman to win a Bulkley scholarship to Yale, where her doctoral thesis won her an American Historical Association award and was published in its annual report. As well as college teaching, for a short time she was historian at the Office (now Bureau) of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC, and was also involved in women’s suffrage issues. She reached the peak of her academic teaching career as a history professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, one of the country’s most prestigious women’s institutions of higher learning. She combined her teaching with research and wrote some minor pieces prior to her major work, a three-volume political history of the Indian Territory during the American Civil War, which was published between 1915 and 1925. Her life took an unexpected turn while on a research sabbatical in Australia when, aged nearly fifty, she found romance and then experienced a disastrous, short-lived marriage. Undeterred, she returned to America and continued to pursue her primary professional interest as an independent researcher, winning grants that took her to England and Canada, until her retirement to Aberdeen, Washington, in the 1930s. During this latter period of her life Annie Abel-Henderson (as she now styled herself) produced no original works but continued to publish editions of historically important manuscripts, work she had begun early in her career. Her research interests also covered early North American exploration narratives and, as an extension of her work on Indian–white relations, she had planned an ambitious, comparative study of United States and British Dominion policy towards colonised peoples. As a reviewer, her historical expertise was long sought by the leading academic history journals of the day. Before her death at seventy four from carcinoma, her final years were busy with war relief work and occasional writing. No full-length work has yet appeared on this pioneer historian and this dissertation seeks to evaluate Annie Heloise Abel’s work by a close reading of her textual legacy—original, editorial and commentarial—and to assess her importance in American historiography.

Keywords: Historiography,US Indian Policy,Women Historians,Biography

Subject: History thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2006
School: School of International Studies
Supervisor: Associate Professor Greg Tobin