Abby Maria Hemenway
Conceived of and edited the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, published between 1860 and 1892, a five volume collection of the state's local history - unique in its scope and distinctive in its editorship by a woman.
Date of Birth10/07/1828
Date of Death02/24/1890
Abby Hemenway started her career as a teacher but soon turned her talents to collecting and preserving local poetry in Vermont, resulting in the publication of "The Poets and Poetry of Vermont" (1858). The success of this effort encouraged her to start the work of collecting the local histories of all Vermont's counties, resulting in the 5 volume "Vermont Historical Gazetteer", published between 1860 and 1892. Until her death in 1890, Hemenway managed her own publishing company, involving hundreds of people as researchers and writers.
No one else in the United States had ever attempted collecting the history of every town in a state, a monumental task. The Gazetteer is still used as an important reference today. The only county that Hemenway did not complete was her own, Windsor County.
Hemenway encountered many adversities in the collecting process, from floods to fires to lawsuits to constant financial problems.
Abby Hemenway never married and converted to Catholicism at age 36. Being a single Catholic woman in a elite Protestant male dominated profession made the challenges of her work even more daunting. She was told "history is not suitable work for a woman".
Hemenway took time off from the work of the Gazetteer to teach in Joliet, Illinois,returning to Chicago, Illinois in 1889 where she died, probably of a stroke, at the age of 61, with two volumes of the Gazetteer still to be finished. Her sister, Carrie Page, took up the task of finishing this work and continued running the publishing business. Unfortunately, the manuscript of the final volume on Windsor County ran into serious delays and ended up burning in a house fire.
- Black River Academy