New Hampshire Suffragist, Performer, Composer, Poet, Human Rights Advocate: Abby J. (Hutchinson) Patton of Milford (1829-1892)

From Appletons Cyclopedia of American Biography 1600-1889, Vol III Grinnell-Lockwood.

She was interested in the education of women and was an earnest believer in women’s suffrage, which movement she has aided by tongue and pen,” is how she was described in the book, “A Woman of the Century; Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life,” by Mary A. Livermore and Frances E. Willard, 1892.

By her tongue it is hinted that it was through song with a lovely alto/contralto singing voice that she promoted women’s rights. She was internationally renown and also used letter writing and poetry to promote causes dear to her.

From “A Woman of the Century, etc.”  1893. Photograph of PATTON, Mrs. Abby Hutchinson. Internet Archive.

She was born Abby J. Hutchinson on 29 August 1829 in Milford, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. She was the daughter of Jesse & Mary “Polly” (Leavitt) Hutchinson. [Editor’s note: There are several biographies printed in 1900 and later who present her name as Abigail Jemima, rather than Abby J. however all the early sources including her obituaries and family biographies show ‘Abby J.’]  She married on 28 February 1849 in New York City to Ludlow Patton, son of Rev. William & Mary (Weston) Patton of NYC, and following her marriage resided there with him.

Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, published in 1889 states: “Hutchinson, Abby, the contralto, b. in Milford N.H., 29 Aug., 1829, began at an early age to sing with her brothers. She was admired for her simplicity and archness, and sang “Over the Mountain and over the Moor,” “The Slave’s Appeal,” “The Spider and the Fly,” “Jamie’s on the Stormy Sea,” and “The May Queen.” She married Ludlow Patton, of New York city, in 1849, and has since lived in retirement. Her brothers continued to appear in concerts and from the time to time have brought before the public their own families of young singers. They were followed by many bands of imitators.

There are a great many biographies written about both Abby and the Hutchinson family. The best ones are the earliest written by her own family members, and by people who knew her.  Links to those sources can be found below.

From Story of the Hutchinsons (tribe of Jesse), by John W.
Hutchinson, 1896, page 270. Photograph of Abby Hutchinson Patton, 1892. Internet Archive.

There is no doubt that Abby J. (Hutchinson) Patton promoted suffrage for at least two decades and knew the leaders of that cause personally from as early as 1868 and as late as 1888. The book, “History of Woman Suffrage,” Volume 2, ed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Matilda J. Gage published in 1887 states on page 309: Equal Rights Anniversary. The American Equal Rights Association held its annual meeting.. on May 14, 1868….The Hutchinson Family, the branch of John, was present, and with their sister, Abby Hutchinson Patten, opened the meeting with their song, “We Come to Greet you.” [All the national leaders of suffrage were there including Mrs. Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.]

Second case in point, The online collection of suffrage documents at “Ann Lewis Women’s Suffrage Collection” includes an interesting letter from Susan B. Anthony to Abby Hutchinson Patton. The stationery is that of the Fortieth Anniversary of the Woman Suffrage Movement (18 March 1888) and is as follows: My Dear Friend Abby H. Patton. We shall go to press with our 3d and last edition of the program by Thursday, Friday at latest. Now will you not, can you not give me leave to put your name with dearth brother John’s on the A.M. after Pioneers’ Conference/ I can’t tell you how much joy it would give us all to see and hear you and Ludlow with your dear John!! Now you say we may — announce you — and — you will make a desperate effort to come!! Don’t if you cannot do this — do write a brief word of good cheer to the few left — this side, and entreat you write to help us friends. Lovingly yours. Susan B. Anthony.

Unitarian Church, Milford NH from an old postcard. Collection of the Editor.

Mrs. Abby J. (Hutchinson) Patton died on 24 November 1892 at her home in Manhattan NY. She is buried in North Yard Cemetery, Milford, Hillsborough Co. NH. Her obituary was published in The Granite Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, History and State Progress, Volume 15, Henry H. Metcalf, John N. McClintock, 1893.
On Thanksgiving-day evening, November 24, 1892, Abby Hutchinson Patten, the last survivor of one of the renowned Hutchinson family of singers, died at her home in New York City, of apoplexy. She was stricken with the fatal disease on November 13, and only for a brief day regained her power of speech afterwards. She passed away as quietly as the twilight of a June day fades into the shades of night, and lo! her friends were left alone.
–Mrs. Patton had recently returned to her city home from a prolonged visit among the hills and valleys, mountains and lakes of the “Old Granite State,” which she loved devotedly. Never did the scenery of our good old state impress her more than during her last visit to New Hampshire, and to her old home in Milford. It was her good fortune to visit Sunapee and Winnipiseogee lakes on beautiful August days, and they left a sweet benediction with her, which continued to the end No artist ever discerned the beautiful in nature more quickly than did Mrs. Patton, or was ever more enchanted with it. Henceforth Lake Sunapee and Lake Winnipiseogee will possess added interest to the friends who were her fellow-voyagers on those days.
–Abby Hutchinson Patton was born in Milford, August 29, 1829, and was the youngest of the family of sixteen children of Jesse and Mary Leavitt Hutchinson. She was a natural singer in a remarkable musical family that acquired a high reputation as singers a half century ago. In 1841, at the age of twelve years, she started out on concert tours with her brothers, Judson, John, and Asa, as the fourth member of the famous quartet which N.P. Willis felicitously described as “a nest of brothers with a sister in it.” They appeared at anti-slavery meetings, temperance and other reform meetings, as well as in concerts, and added much to the interest of such gatherings by their stirring humanitarian and patriotic songs. When such orators as Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison were disturbed by mobocratic outbursts, the sweet rendering of “Pity, Kind Gentlemen,” or “The Slave’s Appeal,” by Abby Hutchinson, would quiet the stormy feeling.
— The concert tours of the Hutchinson family extended not only through New England, but to New York and other states in the years preceding 1845. In 1844 they made the tour of the White Mountains, and on that occasion gladdened the heart of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers by entering his native town of Plymouth singing Felicia Hemans’s “Song of Spring”:
“I come, I come, ye have called me long,
I come o’er the mountains with joy and song.”
–In 1845 the Hutchinsons visited Great Britain, where they were well received in society, as well as in the concert room. They were entertained by Charles Dickens, William and Mary Howitt, Harriet Martineau, and many other persons distinguished in literary and reform circles. Abby’s rendering of Tennyson’s “May Queen” was received with great favor wherever they appeared. After returning home, the family continued their concerns for several years.
— In 1849 Abby Hutchinson was married to Mr. Ludlow Patton, a banker and broker, and member of the New York Stock Exchange. His father was the late Rev. Dr. William Patton, one of the founders of Union Theological Seminary, and the founder of the Evangelical Alliance. Mr. Patton possessed fine musical tastes, and their union was a happy one. After their marriage, Mrs. Patton sang only occasionally, with her brothers, but ever responded to a call for charity. In late years Mr. and Mrs. Patton had traveled extensively, and formed a wide acquaintance.
–Mrs. Patton took active interest in all the movements for the benefit of mankind, and was a humanitarian by nature and training. A volume of happy thoughts, in prose and poetry, recently published for private distributions, under the title of “A Handful of Pebbles,” bears testimony to the wisdom of her thoughts and to her felicity in expressing them. Among the numerous songs which she set to music, two of the best known are “Kind Words can Never Die,’ and “Ring Out, Wild Bells.” The latter was song at the musical festival at The Weirs, in 1891, on which occasion Mrs. Patton was present, and greatly enjoyed its rendering.
— It will be of interest to know that Mrs. Patton and her only surviving brother, John W. Hutchinson, and her husband, sang some of the songs of yore at the dedication of the statue of John P. Hale in the state house park, on August 3, 1892, and also sang at the funeral of John G. Whittier, which was the last public appearance of the trio.
— Funeral services were held in New York city, Saturday, November 26, 1892, and at the Unitarian church in Milford [NH] on the following Tuesday, November 29. At the latter service, John W. Hutchinson sang a beautiful tribute to his sister, and sang the last song they had sung together; also the songs, “What shall be my Angel Name,” and “Kind Words can Never Die,” and with others of the family sang the chorus of the selection which he and Mrs. Patton sang at Whittier’s funeral. The services included the reading of some extracts from “A Handful of Pebbles,” [including the song Looking Toward Sunset].
— At the conclusion of the services, the earthly casket of Abby Hutchinson Patton was laid to rest in the burial- place of her fathers beneath the shade of a favorite tree.To her numerous friends, the remembrance of her sweet life is an ever present benediction.



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