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North Jersey History Center Online Exhibits

Elvira Dudley Dean Abell


Letter showing Elvira’s academic record compiled for the years 1906 -1908, July 13, 1908

NJH&GC Manuscript Collection, Frank D. Abell Papers

Elvira Dudley Dean Abell was born on November 14, 1884 in Athens, Pennsylvania, as the eldest daughter of Fannie Archer and George Thompson Dean. The Dean sisters' parents lived in Ithaca while the two sisters studied at Cornell University.

In 1907 Elvira completed the coursework required for a Bachelor of Arts degree at Cornell University. At the time, most medical schools didn’t require the degree for admission and it was not until 1908 that Cornell became one of the few universities to require an undergraduate degree for admission to the Medical College.


Certificate of Elvira Dudley Dean’s membership in  Alpha Omega Alpha, ca. 1910

During her medical school education, Elvira was elected to the honorary fraternity Alpha Omega Alpha whose membership was based on scholastic achievement and professional conduct. Her training involved pathology work at the Nassau Hospital, Mineola, NY.  Dr. Elvira Dudley Dean graduated with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1911.She spent the following three years practicing medicine at Tuxedo Park Hospital, New York before she relocated to New Jersey.  

ElviraImage2A)in Nassau Hospital's Ambulance,1910 (3).jpg

Elvira in an ambulance in Nassau County, Long Island, New York.

NJHGC Photograph & Image Collection

The State Board of Medical Examiners issued Dr. Elvira Dean Abell her license to practice medicine and surgery in New Jersey on July 25th 1914. Elvira moved to Morristown where her sister, Jennie had established the first clinical lab at Morristown Memorial.  Elvira began working as a pathologist at All Souls and later as a roentgenologist and pathologist at Memorial Hospital.  Soon, she had her own practice on South Street and Park Avenue.


Volunteer Medical Service Corps certificate for Dr. Elvira Dean Abell, 1918 

NJH&GC Manuscript Collection, Frank D. Abell Papers

In 1918, Elvira married Frank D. Abell, a Morristown resident. In November of the same year, Dr. Elvira enrolled in the Volunteer Medical Corps, thereby agreeing to provide medical care, as directed by the local Council of National Defense. The need for physicians was acute at this time, since many were serving the war effort overseas and the 1918 flu pandemic created an increased demand for health care workers.


Invitation to the Conference on Child Health and Protection, 1930

NJH&GC Manuscript Collection, Frank D. Abell Papers

Throughout her years in Morristown, Dr. Elvira Dean Abell was an active participant in local, county and state conferences, addressing the needs of community health and the well-being of children.  In 1930, Elvira was a delegate at the national three day Conference on Child Health and Protection convened by President Hoover in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Abell subsequently served at the state level on the Continuation Committee of Public Health Administration, Section II of the New Jersey Conference on Child Health and Protection.


Dr. Elvira Dean Abell with her daughter, Alice and son, Frank D., Jr., ca.1930

NJH&GC Manuscript Collection, Frank D. Abell Papers

Elvira Abell was active in the fight against Tuberculosis. As early as 1932, Elvira encouraged the use of motion pictures as a means of educating communities about the causes, treatments and methods of preventing tuberculosis among children. In 1930 Dr. Abell was appointed the first woman member of the Board of Managers of the County Tuberculosis Hospital, also known as the Shonghum Mountain Sanatorium. It was during Elvira’s service on the Board that much needed space was added to the hospital, and dedicated in 1941. 

 In 1940, at their 34th annual meeting Dr. Elvira Dean Abell became the first woman to be elected president of the New Jersey Tuberculosis League. She had served the previous two years as vice-president. She spoke regularly at conferences co-sponsored with various health organizations, such as the New Jersey Health and Sanitary Association and the New Jersey Health Officers Association. Dr Abell was recognized for her work on the fundraising Christmas Seal sales at the 1941 annual conference of the National Tuberculosis Association.

At 64 years of age, on December 8, 1948, Dr. Elvira Dudley Dean Abell died at home of a cerebral hemorrhage.

She was survived by her husband, Frank D. Abell, a former state senator, a daughter, Alice and a son, 

Frank D. Jr.


Resolution, Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Morris, 1948

NJH&GC Manuscript Collection, Frank D. Abell Papers

The expression of sympathy to Dr. Abell’s family, offered by the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Morris County was entered as a permanent record out of their respect and esteem for Dr. Abell’s life work.