Abby Hills Price

       Abby Price (1814 - 1873) was one of the few people whose words were recorded in the
    Proceedings of the 1850 National Woman's Rights Convention.  She was born July 18,1814 in
    Franklin, CT., and died May 4, 1873 of apoplexy at Red Bank, NJ.  She married Edmund Price
    (born on March 1, 1808), described as an unsuccessful hatter who made poor investments.

    Children:
         1. Arthur W. Price was born January 23, 1840 in Willimantic, CT. He became an engineer in   
    the   U.S. Navy.
         2. Helen C. Price was born May 18, 1841 in Willimantic, CT.
         3. Emily W. Price was born in Hopedale.
         4. Henry Edmund Price was born April 2, 1850 in Hopedale and died May 2, 1852.

      Mr. Price was by trade a hatter.  He was a very honest, industrious, hard-working man in
    whatever business engaged, often consuming 15-18 hours of the 24.  Had he been as
    successful in preserving the fruits of his toil as in earning them, he must have become wealthy.  
    But, with no vicious or spend-thrift habits, through misjudgment or ill-luck in the investment of his
    funds, he frequently lost in large sums what he had acquired by laborious diligence.  He and his
    wife came to Hopedale in 1842, and were among our early members of the community.  Mrs.
    Price was an intelligent woman, with a literary and poetic genius.  She occupied an influential
    official position in the community for several years.  In 1853, she and her husband removed to
    Englewood, NJ, thence to New York City, and last to near Red Bank, Monmouth Co., NJ.  There
    she died suddenly of apoplexy, May 4, 1878.  An interesting memorial obituary testifying to her life-
    work and worth, soon after appeared in the New York Tribune. Biographical and Genealogical
    Register of Milford, page 979.

       Just below the entry for Edmund and Abby Price in the Genealogical Register is the following:

    Price, Charles Henry, a bro. of Edmund, b. in Brooklyn, Ct., June 15, 1819; became a member of
    the Community at Hopedale in Aug. 1843, and for some yrs. was a faithful and efficient manager
    of our Transportation Branch. In 1844 he m. Betsey Cleveland, b. in Bozrah, Ct., Aut 27, 1823, and
    removed her hither.

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      "Nearly all that we know about the Hopedale Community (1841-1856) is written through the
    eyes of Adin Ballou, its founder, planner, theologian, President, and historian.  Ballou referred to
    Price- as "a sort of poet-laureate to the Community."   I found more than sixty poems, several
    articles, and the story related in the following pages.  I also found evidence that there are many
    other stories waiting to be discovered and told.

       "Abby's writings give us an intriguing picture of a highly intelligent, educated woman, absolutely
    committed to Practical Christian Socialism.  The writings that we have contain a strong but warm
    and loving religious flavor.  Her writing is replete with Biblical allusion and metaphor which she
    applies to the reform movements with enormous skill.  They show us a woman whose thoughts
    were developing over the years, and whose personal commitment to reform began to focus on
    womans' rights by the early 1950s.  And they show us a woman with the courage to speak before
    a national convention, criticizing the large society in which she found herself; a woman whose
    courage failed when it came to wearing the newfangled Bloomer costume in public and a
    woman who finally turned a critical eye on the community which she loved, advocating for
    changes in women's sphere with that community.  I would suggest that it may have been this
    criticism of Hopedale itself that led to a lack of support during a time of interpersonal crisis,
    leaving her vulnerable and ultimately leading to her decision to leave.

      "Abby Price along with her fellows at Hopedale was strongly anti-war [Mexican War], giving
    many of her anti-slavery writings a rich, sweet-sour mixture of hope that slavery would end
    without war, that God and love would somehow put an end to the evil of slavery.

      "There was a particular chain of events that led to the departure of Abby and her family from
    Hopedale.  Adin Ballou refers to these events a 'A Free Love Episode' [in his History of
    Hopedale].  He mentions no names. But upon hearing a rumor, Sam'l W. Wheeler of Providence
    wrote to Abby Price as follows:  'It is reported that you, with two or three others, (Henry Fish is
    named as one,) are about being or are excluded from Hopedale Community.  I hear nothing as a
    reason but that you have adopted what is call by some the 'Free Love' principle What is it? what
    does it mean?...You cannot imagine my feelings.  Seldom, if ever, has my spirit been troubled as
    it is now.  Do write immediately.'  To his credit, Adin Ballou published this letter and Abby's reply
    in The Practical Christian. [July 2, 1853]"      Susan G. LaMar,  The Poetry, Politics, and
    Prophecy of Abby Hills Price.    (unpublished paper for Andover Newton Theological School,
    1998).

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      In a biography of Walt Whitman,  written by Mitchell Santine Gould, it mentions that, " Helen
    Price was the daughter of one Whitman's dearest confidantes, Abby Hills Price."

                            The Free Love Scandal of 1853              Hopedale Community Menu     

                  
Abby Price and the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention                     HOME   

.

    This photo of Abby Hills Price was found by Rev. Patricia Hatch in a
    biography of Walt Whitman, and passed on to me by Marcia Matthews.
    Here's what Patricia had to say about the find:

    "Susan LaMar found the book and I ordered it from inter-library loan.  In
    the meantime, I talked to Jeanne Kinney, who told me the picture was
    in the book.  The book is called 'Walt Whitman and 19th-Century
    Women Reformers' by Sherry Ceniza.  Abby H. Price and her daughter
    Helen were good friends and correspondents with Walt Whitman and
    his mother from about the mid-1850s."