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Barbara Abel papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00596

Scope and Contents

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 and speech writer. Though the biographical materials are scant, her lively personality and wit are abundantly represented in the writings and correspondence.

Dates of Materials

  • 1925-1989


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing 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. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

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."


1.333 linear feet (4 containers)


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.


This collection is organized into three series:


Immediate Source of Acquisition

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

Barbara Abel papers
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Maida Goodwin.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of the Barbara Abel Papers was made possible by the generous support of the National Historical Records and Publications Commission

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:15-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063