Hall County Historical Society has undertaken a project that could help our state recognize the long-lasting influence a Grand Island native of the past had on our nation.
That woman’s name is Grace Abbott.
Our community has a Grace Abbott Park. The public library is named after her sister, Edith Abbott. But most of Grand Island’s residents probably know very little about how big an influence Grace Abbott had on social welfare and immigrant services in our country.
Abbott, born in 1878, was one of the most well-known suffragists in the nation, working for women’s right to vote, as well as a trailblazer in immigrant rights and child labor policies.
Her approaches to social work still are celebrated today by experts in the field.
So the Historical Society is spearheading a push to have Grace Abbott’s face immortalized on coin in the latest commemorative quarter project of the United States Mint. This project will honor 20 American women on a series of quarters.
Abbott’s influence reached the nation’s capital as she was the first woman nominated to a presidential cabinet position (Herbert Hoover submitted her name for secretary of labor); administered federal efforts for maternal and infant aid (Sheppard-Towner Act 1921-1929); and was a member of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Council on Economic Security.
“Good Housekeeping” in 1930 billed her as “One of America’s 12 Greatest Women.” (She ranked fifth, topping both Amelia Earhart and future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.)
Michelle Setlik, co-chair of the Abbott coin efforts and a board member of the Hall County Historical Society, said Abbott thought outside the proverbial box — especially considering the time period.
“Her work with statistics and data, and how to apply that to social welfare, was groundbreaking,” Setlik said.
The Abbott family had Nebraska’s trademark pioneer tenacity, she said. Her upbringing right here in Grand Island helped her achieve what many of her contemporaries — men and women — couldn’t.
The process to nominate Abbott is easy. The U.S. Mint’s Commemorative Quarter Nomination Form can be found at:
The Hall County Historical Society has made it even easier, by providing guidance to nominate Abbott with the following responses to the questions:
1) Name of the woman you are recommending for consideration: Grace Abbott
2) The woman’s year of birth, if known: 1878
3) The woman’s year of death: 1939
4) Please list the field(s) most commonly associated with the woman you are recommending: Education, Public Administration, Social Work
Then you will be asked to briefly write about Abbott’s accomplishments and attach any links with more information on her.
Grand Island quickly should get involved in this project to get Grace Abbott on a commemorative quarter. Grace Abbott is a native daughter who had far-reaching influence and she deserves to be better known by people in Nebraska and across the country.