Plaque to recognize Abigail Allen, establish Alfred University on National Votes for Women Trail
Abigail Allen, teacher, suffragist, abolitionist, and devoted supporter of co-education, will be honored April 23 with the installation of a plaque next to the Alfred University Administration Building.
Abigail Allen, teacher, suffragist, abolitionist, and devoted supporter of co-education, will be honored April 23 with the installation of a plaque next to the Alfred University Administration Building. The project, spearheaded by Alfred University Professor of Theater Becky Prophet '70 and University Archivist Laurie Lounsberry Meehan '91, is receiving financial support from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites.
Both organizations are spearheading an initiative to erect historical markers commemorating the history of women’s suffrage in the United States. The markers, including Alfred’s Abigail Allen plaque, will become part of the National Votes for Women Trail, which identifies geographic sites throughout the U.S. where suffragists such as Abigail Allen conducted their campaigns for women’s voting rights.
Allen, spouse of Alfred University’s second president, Jonathan Allen, played a key role in supporting the University’s commitment to co-education, as well as other initiatives that drove the Progressive movement in the United States during the 19th century. Closely involved with the Seventh Day Baptist denomination – itself a key force in nineteenth century progressive issues – Allen taught a wide range of classes – painting, drawing, modelling, natural history, botany, and metaphysics.
In rallying support for women’s voting rights, she became a colleague and friendly acquaintance of other leading suffragists of the period, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Julia Ward Howe. As Prophet and Meehan’s grant application notes, she regarded “women’s right to vote and women’s access to equal education … (as) one in the same issue.” She founded the Alphadelphian Society, the second women’s literary society to be founded in the U.S, and in 1873, she gave a speech at the Women’s Congress, held in New York City, where she urged her audience: “Be radical, radical to the core.” In 1887, she was arrested, along with nine other women, for voting (illegally) in Alfred.
Prophet and Meehan, both Alfred University alumnae, worked together in applying for support from the Pomeroy Foundation, which provides funding for the actual construction of the plaques commemorating the National Votes for Women Trail.
Prophet says she heard about the Trail project both from a relative and from former Alfred University history Professor Gary Horowitz. She began the grant application to the Pomeroy Foundation, then partnered with Meehan, an historian of Allen’s life, who organized primary research material and wrote a 500-word summary of Allen’s biography for the application.
Both members of Alfred University’s Women’s and Gender Studies program, Prophet and Meehan say they recognize Allen as a role model for current women studying at Alfred University. “She worked on so many fronts,” Meehan says. “She was a mother of four children, she was Jonathan Allen’s wife, she was a teacher and lecturer, she was deeply involved in so many of the major movements of her age.”
Meehan and Prophet also collaborated on the actual wording that will appear on the plaque when it is dedicated at a ceremony April 23:
Abigail Allen, 1824-1902
Early suffragist, reformer
& Alfred University Educator
declared “Be radical, radical
to the core” in 1873 speech.