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Louise Maria Abbott (1836-1917):

Charter Faculty

Born on September 15, 1836 to John and Lucy (Bennett) Abbott, Louise Maria Abbott originated in Burlington, Vermont.  Abbott received her preparatory education from the Burlington Female Seminary; a finishing school in Utica, New York; the “Grande Ligne, Mission,” Canada; and the Sauveur Summer School at the University of Vermont.  Additionally, she studied with notable teachers, such as Professor Pollens of Dartmouth and Professor Sauveur, in order to improve her French.  Abbott also traveled, though she frequently returned home to associate with her friends, which included the families of influential individuals, such as the University of Vermont’s President James Burrill Angell, Senator George Franklin Edmunds, and John Dewey.  During those times, she participated in various organizations related to intellectual, spiritual, and philanthropic pursuits.  After spending several seasons in Boston, New York, and Washington, she organized a private school in Burlington.  Abbott was visiting the home of Governor John Wolcott Stewart when Edward Payson Hooker, president of Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, offered her a position at his newly-established school.

As primary schools in the south had severely lagged behind New England’s, Hooker developed a preparatory department and program in which students could fulfill the basic educational requirements necessary for higher education.  He sought Abbott, who had experience in that regard.  Therefore, in 1885 Abbott became a member of the charter faculty of Rollins, viewing it as her Christian duty; Abbott placed much importance on the activities of the Congregational Church.  At the College, she served as an instructor in subjects such as French, English, and history.  She served in the capacity of a “dean of women,” such as when she suggested the name “Friends in Council” (based upon the name of her literary society in Vermont) to young women proposing to form a similar organization at Rollins. As one of the five original faculty members of Rollins, she had a close relationship with the other professors and students, who described her as having a “strong, intelligent personality…. She was a woman of rare intellectual entertainment, a devout Christian, one who understood how to teach and touch the hearts of the young people under her care.”[1]  Owing to her poor health, however, Abbott resigned from Rollins in 1892. 

After leaving the College, Abbott spent several years in San Diego, California and Burlington, before returning to Winter Park.  In 1955, Rollins acquired the house she lived in.  The Abbott House functioned as a faculty residence and men’s dormitory until its demolition in 1969.  Abbott greatly loved Rollins and the Winter Park community, which she actively participated in.  She also took interest in pursuits such as horseback riding, going on motor trips, and even expressed the desire to fly in an airplane, a reflection of her modern sentiments.[2]  Abbott died on March 21, 1917 as a result of injuries sustained during an automobile accident.  Shortly before her death, coincidentally, she had comforted a nervous woman who had expressed concerns about driving: “It would be a beautiful way to go, that is, if one is quite prepared.”[3]  Her role as a member of Rollins early faculty ensures that, as one former student stated, “her name will be ever honored and revered by all the students of dear old Rollins.”[4]

- Angelica Garcia

[1] Mattie McAdory Huey, “Miss Louise M. Abbott,” Alumni Record 6 (September 1929): 3.

[2] Anonymous, “Louisa Maria Abbott (1936-1917),” 2, Department of Archives and Special Collections, 45E: 1 of 4, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Huey, “Miss Louise,” 3.

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