Whittelsey, Abigail Goodrich (1788–1858)

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Whittelsey, Abigail Goodrich (1788–1858)

American editor of magazines for mothers . Born Abigail Goodrich on November 29, 1788, in Ridgefield, Connecticut; died on July 16, 1858, in Colchester, Connecticut; daughter of the Reverend Samuel Goodrich and Elizabeth (Ely) Goodrich; educated at home and at local schools; married the Reverend Samuel Whittelsey, on November 10, 1808 (died 1842); children: Samuel (b. 1809); Charles Chauncey (b. 1812); Elizabeth (b. 1815); Henry (b. 1821); Charles Augustus (b. 1823); Emily (b. 1825); and one unnamed child who died at birth.

Served as matron of a female seminary in upstate New York (1824–28); together with husband, founded a seminary for girls in Utica, New York (1828), and served as its matron; appointed editor of periodical Mother's Magazine (1833); magazine moved to New York City, where circulation reached 10,000 by 1837; resigned (1848); was founder, editor, and publisher, Mrs. Whittelsey's Magazine for Mothers (1850–52).

Abigail Goodrich Whittelsey was born in 1788 in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the third daughter of the Reverend Samuel Goodrich and Elizabeth Ely Goodrich , and sister of children's book author Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793–1860), who wrote under the pseudonym Peter Parley. After receiving her education at local schools, she was married in 1808, at age 20, to Samuel Whittelsey, a minister. The couple made their home in Preston, Connecticut, where Reverend Whittelsey was pastor to the Congregational church, before moving to Hartford where for several years he headed what would become the American School for the Deaf. Six of Whittelsey's seven children were born during this period, although only two would live to adulthood. In 1824, the family moved to Canandaigua, New York, where Samuel headed the Ontario Female Seminary, and Abigail served as matron to the young students after the birth of her last child, Emily Whittelsey (Curtis) , in 1825. Three years later, the Whittelseys moved to nearby Utica to found their own seminary for young ladies.

While in Utica, Whittelsey joined the newly established Maternal Association. The organization espoused the same values as did Abigail—making it a priority to raise children in a pious, God-fearing home—and she volunteered to edit the association's new magazine, Mother's Magazine. Containing articles providing detailed, morally grounded instructions in the discipline, schooling, "proper government," and personal care of young children, the magazine was among the first of its kind in the United States. It gave special attention to children of the poor, as well as orphans.

After the family's move to New York City in 1834, Whittelsey continued to edit and publish Mother's Magazine, carrying on publication after Samuel's death in 1842 with the help of her late husband's brother. In 1848, Whittelsey resigned her editorial role at Mother's Magazine after the Maternal Association made the decision to merge its publication with Mother's Journal and Family Visitant and become more commercial in tone. Two years later, she renewed her journalistic efforts with Mrs. Whittelsey's Magazine for Mothers, which was very similar to her first endeavor. With the help of her son Henry, Whittlesey continued to promote a religious upbringing among America's youth until 1852. Returning to Connecticut late in life, she spent her final years with daughter Emily and Emily's husband, the Reverend Lucius Curtis, in Colchester, Connecticut. She died in 1858 at the age of 70 and was buried in the town of Berlin, Connecticut.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.

Read, Phyllis J., and Bernard L. Witlieb. The Book of Women's Firsts. NY: Random House, 1992.

Pamela Shelton , freelance writer, Avon, Connecticut

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