b.1872 – d.1927 – American Author
Mary Winchester ABBOTT was born on 30 December 1872 in Woodbury, Connecticut, USA, to The Reverend Alvin Van Rensselaer ABBOTT, 45, and Mary Chase, who was 41.
The 1880 census has Mary living with her family in Orient, Southold a community at the North East tip of Long Island, NY. At this time she has 3 sisters Harriet, Adelaide (from Alvin’s previous relationship) and Ellen, plus a brother, Dudley.
Mary attended the highly selective, all female, private Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. The college yearbook of Class of ’91 lists Mary aged 19, as a member of the Class of ’94 (referring to the graduation year) she appears in the yearbooks until 1894, within the Pink Carnation class, and member of the Aristotle Club. She next appears in the Yale university yearbook 1897 with her B.A. suffix as a graduate student in the Department of Philosophy and the Arts, along with brother Dudley.
Upon graduation, from 1897, Mary was working as a teacher at Boardman Training School in West Haven. Connecticut. Her sister Ellen also became a teacher.
In 1897, Mary had the poem “The Rose’s Message” published in the book Cap & Gown, a Treasury of College Verse, poems written by university students and selected by Knowles.
The US Federal Census of 1900, lists Mary Winchester, with her sister Ellen C., both teachers, living with their father Alvin V.R. Abbot (Minister) and mother Mary C. The record shows that Alvin owned his property in Orange, Connecticut, outright and free of mortgage.
In 1904, Mary published a book with The Poet-lore company, America’s oldest poetry journal. The work was titled “Browning and Meredith, Some Points of Similarity“, the original of which is housed in the Library of Congress and is considered historically important writing.
Mary’s father Alvin died on 3rd June 1910, he is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Fairfield County, Connecticut along with his parents and siblings.
Mary decided to vacation in San Francisco, as listed in the San Francisco Call July 17, 1910, which listed every person staying in Summer Resorts under the headline “Great throngs of vacationists frolicking at Seaside hotels”. She stayed at the “Pine Inn”.
According the Library of Congress, Catalogue of Copyright Entries 1912, on June 11, 1912, Mary had succeeded in gaining copyright for a dramatic composition named; “The Answer of the Sphinx”, a play in 3 parts.
Bound for London
Mary left the United States in June 1912, arriving in London in July for the purposes of literary work and study. She was single and her place of residence was to be 16, Mornington Crescent in NW London, a very large and imposing building in an upper class part of town. Around this time the large houses were subdivided into flats, occupied by (some famous) artists and artisans, a perfect spot for Mary to study the arts.
Mary’s US consular registration certificate confirms that her mother was Mrs. A.V.R. Abbott of Stratford, Connecticut. Her citizenship of the United States was confirmed by various (quite powerful) sources;
- Letter from Sir Sidney Lee, of 108, Lexham Gardens, London.
- Card from the copyright office of the U.S.A. with reference to copyright for a play written by Mary W. Abbott.
- Letter from Professor Henry Van Dyke of Princeton for identification.
- Letter of identification from Edmund Russell, American Express Company, 6 Haymarket, London.
In 1916, Mary wrote a piece for the Herald Star on Emerson, entitled A Voice from the East.
A brief trip home
Mary appears on the 1920 United States Federal Census (which was taken 6th January 1920) aged incorrectly at 52 instead of 46, living at 67 Blakeman Place along with her mother Mary and sister Ellen. Both her and her sister’s occupation is correctly listed as a teacher, and her mother an 88yr old Widow. It’s possible Mary travelled the US-UK journey many times, but any passenger listings confirming this cannot be found at this time. The older sisters are not present, but they were not Mary’s children. Dudley is also not present, at the time registered at Main Street, Stamford, Vermont with wife Olive and 2 sons.
On May 31st 1920, Mary was back in London, applying for an emergency passport, (did she lose it on a previous trip to the US?) this document confirms her father A.V.R. Abbott was deceased, her 1912 arrival date in London and the fact that her occupation is a writer. The document states she planned to return to the United States within 3 months, via France.
Mary departed Southampton, on the “St. Paul” on 14th August 1920. Her age is listed as 46 (she was 47), and still single. The ship was bound for New York, arriving August 23rd.
Her mother, Mary Chase Abbott passed on January 18, 1921. It is likely the emergency passport and brief return to Connecticut was due to her mother’s health, but this is obviously speculative. Mary Chase Abbott is buried with Alvin on the family plot in Connecticut.
Back in the UK
I am currently unable to find any records showing Mary’s return to the UK after her mother’s death. What appears to be clear is that following the death of her mother, Mary was not in contact with the rest of her family.
Her admission to Long Grove asylum happened sometime between 1921-28, and so the record is not yet available to us online. We will add more detail as we are able to access the paper records.
On Feb 10 1928, the American Consular in London, completed a report for the death of an American citizen. Mary Winchester Abbot had died at Long Grove Mental Hospital, aged 53, on September 12th, 1927 at 5:45p.m. She was interred at the London County Council cemetery at Horton Lane on Sept 16 1927, in grave 854a.
Her cause of death is listed as; 1a. Pyaemia (blood poisoning), 1b. septic wrist, 2. Exhaustion from melancholia (indefinite and prior to admission). She would have been unable to continue her writing and seemed to additionally be suffering from depression.
An accomplished writer unable to write, along with the death of her mother whom she rushed back across the ocean to see, may have added to Mary’s depression.
The American Consul General took responsibility for her effects but these are not listed. Strangely the address of relatives was listed as ‘unknown’. A lack of known family may explain why she was left here, instead of being returned home to the impressive family plot at Lakeview Cemetery in Fairfield Connecticut. She also had yet another new passport from the one issued in 1920.
What of the family?
Brother Dudley became a minister like his father. He first married Jennie Worden on 4th April 1906, and had a son Conwell Worden and daughter Dorothy Evelyn. He then married Olive Mary Spaulding on 10th November 1913, and had a son Alvin (after his father). In 1940 Dudley and Olive were living in Sarasota, Florida. Alvin, died a Captain in WW2 and is buried in Fort William McKinley, Philippines.
Dudley died in April 1958 and is buried at Sarasota Memorial Park, Florida.
I cannot find what happened to Mary’s sister Ellen Cordelia after 1920. Her career was similar to Mary, same schools, same job as a teacher, and studying the arts. But I cannot find any death record at this time. Mary and Ellen appear to have remained single throughout their lives.