Abbie Holmes Christensen 1852 – 1938

Abbie Holmes ChristensenAbbie Holmes Christensen 1852 – 1938 an advocate of homeopathy and active educator of American blacks, suffragist and writer, Christensen was instrumental in reforming the politics of the South after the Civil War.

Christensen’s family introduced her to homeopathy when she was ill during her studies, and she prescribed remedies for herself and for her family. She was also interested in ‘mind cures‘, and she combined this with homeopathy, rejecting orthodox medicine.

Frances Willard befriended and promoted Abbie Holmes Christensen :

It was also probably while Abbie was on her own with the children in New England that she became involved in the temperance and suffrage movements. In 1888, while in Boston, she joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

In 1889 she received a personal visit from Frances Willard, the president of the WCTU; and in 1890 members elected Abbie to the board of directors of the Women’s Temperance Publishing Association (affiliated with the WCTU) on which she served for two years. continue reading:

Julia Ward Howe was the editor of Sex and Education, containing contributions from Abbie Holmes Christensen and Mercy B Jackson. Lucy Stone also praised Abbie Holmes Christensen’s book Afro American Folk Lore. Abraham Lincoln had received many petitions from homeopaths and the sons of homeopaths, and from homeopathic advocates, for example Abbie Holmes Christensen, an activist in the suffrage and civil rights movement.

Much of the history of this family can be found in correspondence that reflects the life events of the Christensen’s. Abbie, in particular, was an avid writer and correspondent…. They offer a window onto the Civil War, Reconstruction, Beaufort life, World War I, the 1920s, the Great Depression, religion, spirituality, world leaders, race relations, and education.

The collection also reflects the participation of Abbie and her daughters in the suffrage movement and in women’s rights efforts.

The collection includes letters from Mary Coes (Abbie’s cousin and a dean at Radcliffe College at the turn of the nineteenth century), Clara Barton, Laura Towne, Ellen Murray, and other educators and women’s rights proponents….

The collection also documents the efforts of Abbie and Niels to maintain the Port Royal Agricultural School during post-Reconstruction years….

Additionally, the papers reveal Abbie’s role in the evolving ethnic and social fabric of low country South Carolina immediately following Reconstruction, as well as her involvement in the suffrage movement and her interests in holistic medicine, spirituality, and her participation in the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (Rosicrucian Order)….

The Holmes’s relocated to the South as abolitionists hoping to participate in the interracial community at Port Royal….

Abbie settled into a life of caring for her family and teaching in an African American school in Beaufort….

During the years from 1876 to 1887 Abbie remained busy at home in Beaufort raising her children. It is also important to note that during this time Abbie turned a hobby into a writing career. Ever since she had first moved to the Beaufort area, Abbie collected tales of slave life in pre-Civil War Beaufort. It was while at Mt. Holyoke that Abbie first started to write down some of the tales she remembered from her childhood.

Her first story “De Wolf, De Rabbit An’ De Tar Baby” (included in Afro American Folk Lore) was published in the Springfield Daily Republican on June 2, 1874. After publishing tales in the serial format for around ten years, Abbie finally found a publisher, and in 1892 Afro American Folk Lore Told Round Cabin Fires on the Sea Islands of South Carolina was published as a collection of tales recorded in the dialect of the Sea Islands.

Abbie compromised by educating their children in the north. During the 1880s and 1890s, when all of the children were in school, Abbie seemed to spend more time in Massachusetts than in South Carolina. Evidence of the strain that this arrangement placed on their marriage is obvious in the correspondence exchanged between Niels and Abbie during this time.

It was also probably while Abbie was on her own with the children in New England that she became involved in the temperance and suffrage movements. In 1888, while in Boston, she joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

In 1889 she received a personal visit from Frances Willard, the president of the WCTU; and in 1890 members elected Abbie to the board of directors of the Women’s Temperance Publishing Association (affiliated with the WCTU) on which she served for two years….

In 1898, a group of individuals – including Abbie and Niels Christensen – came together to discuss the feasibility of founding a school for African American children in Beaufort. The entire Christensen family worked with both white and African American citizens in Beaufort to make the Port Royal Agricultural School a reality. Founded in 1901, the school served the Beaufort community for over forty years…

Abbie became very involved in several alternative forms of Christianity. After her son Jamie’s death in 1885 Abbie had originally turned to the practice of “Mind Cure.” It was the application of the principle of mind over matter. Through hypnotism, massage, and telepathy, the practitioner strove to heal him- or herself. The final cure was as much about the restoration of moral and mental wellness as it was about physical healing.

After her husband’s death, Abbie’s interest in Mind Cure grew even stronger. Years later, in 1929, she joined the Rosicrucian Order of Christian Mystics, a Christian-based sect that espoused the power of the spiritual over the material and the kinship of all humanity.

Mind Cure and Rosicrucianism were but two in a series of alternative religious and medical practices Abbie practiced over the course of her life. Abbie probably took solace in these practices. She also collected rare plants and dispensed homeopathic remedies to her friends and family.

In later years, Abbie often spent time at various solarium retreats across the country as a means of restoring her mental and physical well being; often her daughter Andrea accompanied her on these extended trips.

In 1932, Abbie accepted a position as the Elector at Large for the Socialist Party in South Carolina. She served as a delegate for the presidential candidate, Norman Thomas. Her family supported her decision to express her political beliefs in a public forum. This represented the only time Abbie publicly supported a political candidate.

Abbie died in Greenville on September 21, 1938. She had been visiting with Andrea when she suddenly took ill. She passed away in a matter of days. She was remembered by family and friends in South Carolina and Massachusetts. The staff and students at the Port Royal Agricultural School memorialized her and started a scholarship in her name. continue reading:

The papers of the Christensen Family document over 175 years in the lives of several generations of individuals with ties to South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Denmark.

Christensen wrote A Stroller in Beaufort Fields and Gardens and Afro American Folk Lore.

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