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Barbara Abel Papers, 1925-1989
4 boxes (1.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 596

Abstract:
Public relations specialist, Columnist, Journalist, YWCA worker, Editor. The papers primarily relate to Abel's professional life and include her magazine columns for the YWCA and Community Chests and Councils of America, scripts for skits and plays, and a variety of other pieces written in the course of Abel's work as editor and publicity director for a variety of organizations.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Copyright ownership of Barbara Abel's writings is unknown. Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Barbara Abel may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note
Poem by Barbara Abel, October 16, 1952

Poem by Barbara Abel, October 16, 1952

Writer, editor, and public relations specialist Barbara Abel was born on January 5, 1895, in Elizabethtown, New York. She was the second daughter of Lucinda Pond and William H. Abel, who worked for the railroad in Chicago. Abel's mother journeyed from Chicago to Elizabethtown, the family's home in the Adirondacks, for the births of both Barbara and her sister. Barbara grew up in Chicago, but spent summers in Elizabethtown among extended family.

Educated in the public schools in Springfield, Illinois, and Kansas City, Missouri, Abel started college at Kansas University, then transferred to Northwestern University where she earned a B.A. in 1918.

Immediately after college, she worked for the Evanston, Illinois, News Index (1918-19) covering "deaths and women's clubs." In 1920 she became Publicity Secretary for the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

Abel joined the staff of the YWCA of the U.S.A. as managing editor of its magazine The Womans Press in July of 1925. She began her regular column "The Press Pussy" in January 1926. An extremely popular humorous look at the YWCA, it was a regular feature of the magazine until December 1944. In addition to this monthly column, Abel wrote a wide variety of pieces for the Womans Press, as well as many skits for use at meetings, conferences, and Conventions. She and her "dearest friend of decades standing," Florence Nichols, also regularly produced delightful cartoons on YWCA themes for the Womans Press.

Abel left the National Association in the fall of 1931 to become Publicity Director for the Metropolitan Chicago YWCA. In 1945 she returned to New York City to take the job of Public Relations Director for the Community Chests and Councils of the U.S.A. (CCC) where she edited their magazine Community and developed a similarly beloved column, "The Red Feather." Among her duties at CCC was drafting annual campaign kick-off speeches for the U.S. President and Vice President. She retired from CCC in 1960. One colleague wrote at her retirement, "Now I shall have to resign myself to uninspired and turgid prose, and I don't like the idea at all."

In addition to her work for the YWCA and CCC, Abel published "light verse" in The New Yorker and other "leading magazines," and wrote articles for the National Dairy Association.

In retirement, Abel and Nichols divided their time between Abel's summer house "Bob-up" in Elizabethtown, and a small New York City apartment where Abel took on the odd freelance writing project.

She died in Elizabethtown on May 22, 1966.

In a memorial tribute, Abel's friend and colleague Henry W. Kritzmacher, described Barbara as "among the elite who foresaw sophistication in a field where the blunt, outstretched hand was rampant." He characterized her work as "a pinnacle of creative writing art which etched its message in a concise, trenchant comment that tore away sham, and in a wry humor . . . sold by underselling, or spanked by patting fiery heads."

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Barbara Abel Papers consist of 1.5 linear ft. and are primarily related to her professional life, dating from 1918 to 1989. Types of materials include correspondence, speeches, photographs, press releases, reports, journal and newspaper articles, magazine columns, scripts for skits and plays, speeches, writings, editorial files, and memorabilia.

The bulk of the papers date from 1926 to 1960 and consist primarily of scripts for skits and magazine columns for the YWCA and Community Chests and Councils of America. Other files give a sense of Abel's work as an editor an speech writer. Though the biographical materials are scant, her lively personality and wit are abundantly represented in the writings and correspondence.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Copyright ownership of Barbara Abel's writings is unknown. Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Barbara Abel may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Barbara Abel Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The Barbara Abel Papers came to the Sophia Smith Collection with the YWCA of the U.S.A. Records in 2002. The YWCA received them from Marion O. Robinson in 1977.

Processing Information

Processed by Maida Goodwin, June 2008


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/
Language
English
Sponsor
Processing of the Barbara Abel Papers was made possible by the generous support of the National Historical Records and Publications Commission

Series Descriptions
(1918-1989)
.25 linear ft.

This series contains a small amount of general biographical material, much of it tributes written at the time of Abel's retirement from United Community Funds and Councils of America in 1966; a small amount of correspondence; and some photographs of Abel, Florence Nichols, and of productions of skits written by Barbara Abel.

(1940-1963)
.25 linear ft.

The bulk of the writings in this series are miscellaneous personal pieces, such as poems, songs, and retirement tributes to friends. There are also a couple of general pieces on group work and social service themes. Writings done as part of Abel's work for organizations are in SERIES III.

(1926-1966)
1 linear ft.

This series consists of correspondence, and columns, pamphlets, skits, speeches, newsletters, conference proceedings, retirement tributes, and a variety of other pieces written in the course of Abel's work as editor and publicity director for a variety of organizations.

Also included are materials related to volunteer efforts on behalf of membership organizations, such as the National Council of Social Work, and a variety of professional organizations and conferences of community welfare organizations.

The series is arranged alphabetically by name of the organization.

Contents List
SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS CORRESPONDENCE, AND PHOTOGRAPHS



Biographical materials



General
1918-89, n.d.

Box 1: folder 1
Florence Nichols
1927-48, n.d.

Box 1: folder 2
Retirement



Correspondence
1960

Box 1: folder 3
Party
5 Jun 1960

Box 1: folder 4
Correspondence, general
1941-60, n.d.

Box 1: folder 5
Photographs
1938-60, n.d.

Box 1: folder 6
SERIES II. WRITINGS



Poems and songs
1950-63, n.d.

Box 1: folder 7
Miscellaneous
1943-61, n.d.

Box 1: folder 8
"Friends of the Family," pamphlet for local United Funds and Chests
1961

Box 1: folder 9
"Let's Work in Groups! (A Dramatic Monologue with song)"
1947, n.d.

Box 1: folder 10
Tributes (mostly poems) to colleagues and friends
1940-61, n.d.

Box 1: folder 11
SERIES III. ORGANIZATIONS



Community Chests and Councils of America, Inc./United Community Funds and Councils of America [United Way]



General
1944-61, n.d.

Box 1: folder 12-13
"The Red Feather" column



General
1947-55, n.d.

Box 1: folder 14
Copies of column in Community, United Community Funds and Councils of America magazine
1945-55

Box 1: folder 15
Correspondence re ending of column
1956-57

Box 1: folder 16
Retirement tributes



For Ralph Blanchard
Feb 1960

Box 1: folder 17
For Lois
1957

Box 1: folder 18
Skits



Miscellaneous
1949-58, n.d.

Box 1: folder 19
"Follow the Leadership," for Council Leaders Conference
1961

Box 1: folder 20
Speeches



Drafts for CCC/UCFC personnel
1958-61

Box 1: folder 21
Drafts for President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon
1954-58

Box 2: folder 1
Community Welfare Council Leaders Conference: skit, "The Mop Up"
1959

Box 2: folder 2
Council of Affiliate Agencies of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies: skit, "Delegate Body (and Soul)"
1948

Box 2: folder 3
Council on Foundations, 15th Annual Conference, editing of Proceedings
1964

Box 2: folder 4
National Conference of Social Work



Skits



"The Clean Up"
1938

Box 2: folder 5
"The Gates of Paradise: a light-hearted skit on citizen participation (Volunteer Service to you!)"
1947

Box 2: folder 6
"There Oughta Be a Law! (Citizen Participation in Words and Music)"
1948

Box 2: folder 7
"Keep It Confidential" and "Let's Make a Study!"
1952

Box 2: folder 8
Speech: "On Being and Individual Agency"
1956

Box 2: folder 9
National Council on Social Welfare: skit "Careers in Arrears"
1956-57

Box 2: folder 10
National Dairy Council: pamphlets
1950-53, n.d.

Box 2: folder 11
National Social Welfare Assembly: editing
1954-61

Box 2: folder 12
National Social Work Publicity Council, Chicago Chapter: "Frollies"
1935-40, n.d.

Box 2: folder 13
United Defense Fund



Skit for staff conference: "Report from Region Eight"
1951

Box 2: folder 14
Speech for E.A. Roberts
1953

Box 2: folder 15
Welfare Public Relations Council of Greater Chicago: skit, "Well, Well, Welfare!: a comedy skit on Citizen Participation"
1950

Box 2: folder 16
YWCA of Chicago



General
1935-44, n.d.

Box 2: folder 17
The Tower of B'Abel, publicity department newsletter[incomplete]
1935-44

Box 2: folder 18
YWCA of the U.S.A.



Correspondence
1938-60

Box 2: folder 19
Skits



Miscellaneous
1930-65, n.d.

Box 2: folder 20-21
"Committee on Space: A World Fellowship Skit with a Sense of Humus"
1959

Box 3: folder 1
Follow the Leadership and Other Skits, Womans Press
1938

Box 3: folder 2
"The Minute Girls Face the Future"
1965-66

Box 3: folder 3
"Mother Earth and Her Children," as given at the conference on the cause and cure of war
Jan 1931

Box 3: folder 4
"The Payoff Cometh"
1946

Box 3: folder 5
"Personnel, Inc."
1947

Box 3: folder 6
"Portrait of Lucinda," for World YWCA Centennial
1953-55

Box 3: folder 7
"The Shoestring Express" and "Where do We Go From Here?," Convention
1949

Box 3: folder 8
"Subcommittee on Brass Tacks," Convention
1952

Box 3: folder 9
"Void if Detached: a YWCA Membership Skit in One Act"
1951

Box 3: folder 10
"Y-olanthe"
1929

Box 4: folder 1
Slide script for Convention[see also YWCA of the U.S.A. Records, Slides]
1961

Box 4: folder 2
Other writings



Miscellaneous
1928-51, n.d.

Box 4: folder 3
"Knife, Fork, and Spoon River Anthologies" (short poems about YWCA staff)
n.d.

Box 4: folder 4
The Press Pussy: miscellaneous
1942, 1988, n.d.

Box 4: folder 5
"The Press Pussy" column for The Womans Press
1926-44

Box 4: folder 6
"Personnel-with a Purr" column for The YWCA Magazine
1957-58

Box 4: folder 7

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Abel, Barbara
  • American wit and humor--Women authors--20th century--Sources
  • Charities--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Community Chests and Councils of America--History
  • Public relations--History--20th century--Sources
  • Womans Press
  • Women editors--United States--Biography--Sources
  • Women journalists--United States--Biography--Sources
  • Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A.--History--Sources

Contributors
  • Community Chests and Councils of America
  • Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A.


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