Turner, Abby H.
Manuscript Collection: MS 0776
Agency History/Biographical note:
Abby (sometimes spelled Abbie) Howe Turner was born on February 21,
1875 in Nashua, New Hampshire. She was the daughter of George Turner
and Emeline Cogswell Turner. She entered Mount Holyoke Seminary and
College in 1892 and received her B.A. in 1896. For many years she
alternated between pursuing graduate studies and working as a
laboratory assistant or teacher of zoology and physiology. Turner
spent a year at the University of Pennsylvania where she studied
zoology, botany, and chemistry in 1899-1900. In 1901-1902 she studied
zoology, botany, and physiology at the University of Chicago. From
1909-1911 she was registered at Radcliffe College and studied at
Harvard Medical School. She received her Ph.D. from Radcliffe in
1926. Turner spent most of her career from 1896-1940 at Mount Holyoke
as a laboratory assistant or teacher. She established the Department
of Physiology at Mount Holyoke and became Department Chair in 1922.
In 1902-1903 she taught zoology at Wellesley College. Turner retired
from Mount Holyoke College in 1940 and acted as head of the
Physiology Department at Wilson College in 1943-1944. Her research
often focused on colloid osmotic pressure and circulatory reactions
to gravity. She also conducted extensive studies on the physiology of
Mount Holyoke College students. She died on November 26, 1957 in
South Hadley, Massachusetts at the age of eighty-two.
Scope and Content:
The Abby H. Turner Papers consist of writings, correspondence,
research material, a grade book, biographical information, and
photographs, dating from ca.1896-1960. Writings date from 1913-1958
and include laboratory manuals for physiology and zoology courses at
Mount Holyoke College, articles from academic journals, her Ph.D.
dissertation entitled "Respiratory and Circulatory Test of Physical
Fitness in Healthy Young Women," and "Mount Holyoke Alumnae
Quarterly" articles relating to the history of Mount Holyoke. The
journal articles focus primarily on women's vital capacity and
circulation. Correspondence dates from ca.1901 and 1923-1938, and
includes professional correspondence with colleagues at other
institutions. One letter, dated August 10, 1925, is from Francis G.
Benedict, Director of the Nutrition Laboratory at the Carnegie
Institution of Washington; it requests collaboration in researching
women's metabolism. There is also correspondence containing personal
anecdotes about Louis Agassiz. The research material dates from
1931-ca.1937 and primarily consists of "vital capacity records" that
Turner kept about individual Mount Holyoke students from 1931-1935.
These records have data about height, weight, athletic activities,
and diseases for each student. The research material also includes a
drawing of an osmometer and data tables for the colloid osmotic
pressure of the sera of marine telecosts dating from ca.1937. The
grade book dates from 1899-1909 and consists of individual Mount
Holyoke students' grades in botany, zoology, and physiology.
Biographical information dates from 1920-1960. This information
consists of biographical notes, a conference program, newspaper and
"Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly" articles, and obituaries. The
articles are primarily about lectures that Turner gave and awards she
received. Photographs date from ca.1896-ca.1945 and include both
formal and informal photographs of Turner as well as negatives of the
Cite as: Abby H. Turner Papers, Mount Holyoke College,
Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley,
Access Restrictions: Unrestricted except for "vital
capacity records" filed in Series 3
and the grade book filed in Series 4.
These materials may be used by
researchers who sign the Mount
Holyoke College Archives and Special
Collections Restricted Records
Statistical and Quantitative Research