Abigail Greene Rockefeller (Aldrich) (1874 - 1948) MP

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Abigail "Abby" Greene Rockefeller (Aldrich)'s Geni Profile

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Birthplace: Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA
Death: Died in New York, New York County, New York
Cause of death: Heart Attack
Managed by: Tina
Last Updated:

About Abigail Greene Rockefeller (Aldrich)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abby_Aldrich_Rockefeller

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, (October 26, 1874 – April 5, 1948), was a prominent socialite and philanthropist and the second-generation matriarch of the renowned Rockefeller family. Referred to as the "woman in the family", she was especially noteworthy for being the driving force behind the establishment of the Museum of Modern Art, on 53rd Street in New York, in November, 1929.

She was born Abigail "Abby" Greene Aldrich in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of the influential Senator Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and the former Abby Pearce Truman Chapman, a distant descendant of the fourth signer of the Mayflower Compact. Her sister, Lucy Aldrich, who was nearly completely deaf (at the time thought because of a childhood bout of scarlet fever, now believed to be the result of waardenburg syndrome, a genetic anomaly found in several generations of the Aldrich family), would be one of her closest friends throughout their lives, and is believed to have fostered Abby's interest in American folk art.

Her early education came at the hands of Quaker governesses. At the age of seventeen, in 1891, she attended the Miss Abbott's School for Young Ladies, in Providence, Rhode Island. While there she studied English composition and literature, French, German, art history and ancient history, gymnastics, and dancing. She graduated in 1893 and made her debut in November 1893.

On June 30, 1894, she sailed for Liverpool, beginning a lifetime of extensive European and later Asian travel. The aesthetic education she gained from abroad, initially fostered by her father, helped to inform her future discernment as an art collector. This initial four-month sojourn included the countries of England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and France.

In the fall of 1894 she met her future husband, John Davison Rockefeller, Jr., the sole son and scion of the wealthy oil industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, at a friend's house in Providence. They went through a protracted engagement, during which they were invited for a trip to Cuba in 1900, on President William McKinley's yacht. They finally married on October 9, 1901, in the major society wedding of the Gilded Age, in front of around a thousand of the elite personages of the time, at her father's summer home in Warwick Neck, Kent County, Rhode Island.

They settled in 13 West 54th Street from 1901 until 1913, when the construction of the nine-story mansion at 10 West 54th Street, the largest in New York city at the time, was completed by her husband. They resided at Number 10 until 1938, when they moved to a 40-room triplex apartment at 740 Park Avenue.

They became the parents of six children, including the famed five "Rockefeller Brothers" - and established the renowned six-generation-strong business/philanthropic/banking/real estate dynasty:

Abby Rockefeller Mauzé (November 9, 1903 – May 27, 1976)

John Davison Rockefeller 3rd (March 21, 1906 – July 10, 1978)

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (July 8, 1908 – January 26, 1979)

Laurance Spelman Rockefeller (May 26, 1910 – July 11, 2004)

Winthrop Rockefeller (May 1, 1912 – February 22, 1973)

David Rockefeller (born June 12, 1915)

She died at the family home at 740 Park Avenue in New York City, at the age of 73.

Abby Rockefeller began collecting paintings, watercolors, and drawings by a number of contemporary American artists in 1925, as well as a number of European modernists: Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

In 1929, she employed a designer to create a suite of art deco rooms and furnishings for herself on the 7th floor of their nine-story house at 10 West Fifty-fourth Street. Called the Topside Gallery, it allowed her to display and organize changing exhibitions of her growing collection, integrating modern and folk art. Visitors took the elevator directly to the 7th floor, bypassing the private domain of the rest of her family. The news of her interests and activities spread quickly from this period, and many subsequent collectors began to follow her lead.

She became a prominent patron of modern art and artists in America, using the example of their European predecessors, such as Picasso and Matisse. Most notable was her avid interest in becoming the driving force in the establishment and ongoing operations of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, on November 7, 1929, nine days after the Wall Street Crash. In this project she could not rely on financing from her husband, who was repelled by much of modern abstract painting, nor did she have great wealth of her own to draw on as she received only an allowance from him. Financing for the museum and acquisition of paintings came from her solicitation of corporations and prominent New York individuals.

She was elected to the museum's Board of Trustees in October 1929 and also served as inaugural treasurer from 1929 until 1934. Other roles included terms as First Vice-President (1934-1936) and First Vice-Chairman (1941-1945). Her son Nelson subsequently became its president and involved himself in its financing and the establishment of its new permanent headquarters on 53rd Street, in 1939.

The Art Gallery named in her honor, The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Gallery, designed by architect Philip Johnson and opened in 1953, showcases Japanese woodblock prints from the permanent collection at The Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (The RISD Museum). In 1949, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Print Room opened at MoMA, housing Abby's gift of 1600 prints, which had been given nine years earlier.

In addition to her gifts to the MoMA, Mrs Rockefeller gave substantially to other museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters, which received much of her collection of sculpture and decorative arts, as well as to the Rhode Island School of Design, which received her collection of Japanese prints.

She also has a residential hall named after her at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. The College itself was named after her mother-in-law, Laura Spelman Rockefeller.

With a lifelong dedication to the advancement and welfare of women, Abby was one of the charter founders of the Cosmopolitan Club in New York. She was also a member of the Colony Club, the Women's City Club, the National Society of Colonial Dames, the Women's National Republican Club, the Faculty Club of Harvard University, the Society of Mayflower Descendants, and the Garden Club of America, among others. Along with her husband, she also served on the board of trustees of the International House of New York.

For decades she was involved with the YWCA's National Board, starting as chairman of its housing committee in 1918, building demonstration structures to accommodate working women contributing to the war effort, including, in 1919, the Bayway Cottage and Community House, in New Jersey, with financing from her husband.

She was later to chair the Grace Dodge Hotel committee for fifteen years, organizing the construction of a major hotel for business and professional women involved in government work, as well as accommodating city visitors to Washington

In the mid 1920s, Abby and John Rockefeller Junior were contacted by Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, who was rector of Bruton Parish Church and an instructor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. After seeing Dr. Goodwin's restored church, they explored further his concept of a massive restoration of the city to its glory days prior to the American Revolution, as the capital of the Virginia Colony. They became committed to funding the project, which commenced in 1927.

The result was Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum which has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. One of the museums within the complex, The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, is named in her honor. -------------------- Abby Greene Aldrich Rockefeller was born in Providence, Rhode Island on October 26, 1874, the fourth child of Abby Pearce Chapman (1845-1917) and Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich (1841-1915). Nelson Aldrich rose from the position of bookkeeper in a wholesale grocery firm to become a member of the State House of Representatives; he was Speaker of the House from 1876 to 1877. From 1881 to 1911, he served as United States Senator from Rhode Island. In 1899, he was elevated to the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee, an appointment he held until his retirement in 1911. The family maintained homes in Providence, Warwick Neck, and Washington.

Abby Aldrich received her early education from Quaker governesses. At seventeen, she began attending Miss Abbott's School for Young Ladies in Providence, where her courses included English composition and literature, French, German, art history and ancient history, gymnastics, and dancing. She graduated in 1893 and made her debut the following November. On June 30, 1894, she sailed for Liverpool, inaugurating a lifetime of European travel. The aesthetic education she received abroad, fostered initially by her father, helped to form her judgment as an art collector. Her first four-month sojourn included stays in England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and France.

In the fall of 1894 at the Providence home of a classmate, Abby met John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), son of the founder of Standard Oil Company, who was then a sophomore at Brown University. After a lengthy courtship, they married on October 9, 1901. They had six children: ? Abby (1903-1976) ? John Davison, 3rd (1906-1978) ? Nelson Aldrich (1908-1979) ? Laurance Spelman (1910-2004) ? Winthrop (1912-1973) ? David (1915- ) The Rockefellers lived at No. 13 W. 54th Street from 1901 until 1913, when the construction of No. 10 W. 54th Street was completed. They moved into No. 10, residing there until 1938, when they moved to an apartment at 740 Park Avenue. They had homes at Pocantico Hills, New York; Seal Harbor, Maine, and Williamsburg, Virginia and were active members of these communities.

When the United States entered World War I, Mrs. Rockefeller's charitable and philanthropic activities began in earnest. From 1917 to 1919, Mrs. Rockefeller served as Chairman of Auxiliary 336 of the American Red Cross, completely financing its work. Quarters at No. 4 W. 54th Street were dedicated to preparing thousands of "comfort bags" for shipment through the YWCA-YMCA Navy League and Army and Navy Debarkation hospitals to the fighting fronts in Russia, Italy, and France.

In 1917, Mrs. Rockefeller became chairman of the newly-created Housing Committee of the War Work Council of the National Board of the Young Woman's Christian Association (YWCA). Her report, "Suggestions for Housing Women War Workers" (1918), prompted the federal government to enact building standards for the housing of women at industrial sites, based on the experience of 200 YWCA boarding houses. Mrs. Rockefeller's interest in securing quality housing for working people led her in 1917 to chair the Grace Dodge Hotel Committee of the YWCA. Overcrowded housing conditions in Washington, D.C., resulting from the influx of women war workers, had necessitated immediate relief. The Grace Dodge Hotel for women opened in 1921. Mrs. Rockefeller closely monitored the hotel's design and operation until 1937. She was one of the earliest champions of hotels for women.

In 1919, Mrs. Rockefeller became interested in the living conditions of the employees of the Bayway Refinery of Standard Oil, located in the Bayway section of Elizabeth, New Jersey. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased six lots of land and deeded them to Mrs. Rockefeller for the construction of Bayway Cottage, a model workers' home. In 1928, the cottage was expanded and renamed the Bayway Community House; the House was incorporated in 1937 as the Bayway Community Center. By 1943, some 4,000 families were using the Center and its clinics, gyms, nursery schools, bowling alleys, and meeting rooms. Over a twenty-year period, Mrs. Rockefeller's contributions amounted to $200,000.

With the founding of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in May 1929, the scope of Abby Rockefeller's philanthropy widened dramatically. Her aesthetic insight and administrative and personal skills now found their fullest application, and she gained a permanent home for her personal collection of modern art.

Although the idea of establishing a museum dedicated to fostering modern art had been floating about since the celebrated Armory Show of 1913, it was not until Abby Rockefeller began to solicit the advice of her own friends during the winter of 1928-1929 that the idea moved toward realization.

Conversations with Lillie P. Bliss, patroness of the painter Arthur B. Davies, and Mary Quinn Sullivan, a collector, led to a meeting in May 1929 at which the three women invited A. Conger Goodyear to chair a museum organizing committee. In July, the young Alfred H. Barr, Jr. was appointed director. A seven-member Board of Trustees was elected in October 1929 and included Abby Rockefeller, Lillie Bliss, Mary Quinn Sullivan, A. Conger Goodyear, Frank Crowninshield (editor of Vanity Fair magazine), Mrs. W. Murray Crane (a supporter of the experimental Dalton School), and Paul J. Sachs (Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard).

Mrs. Rockefeller held several positions at the museum from 1929 to 1945. From 1929 to 1934, she served as museum treasurer. From 1934 to 1936, and again from January to May 1939, she held the post of First Vice President. During the war years, from December 1941 until November 1945, she served as First Vice Chairman. Mrs. Rockefeller was a member of several committees of the Board of Trustees. She served on the Executive Committee (1930-1945), chairing that committee in 1936. She was a member of the Fine Art Committee from 1930 to 1934 and of the Exhibitions Committee from 1930 to 1939. She promoted the establishment in 1935 of a Film Library. With Stephen C. Clark and Kenneth Chorley, she organized the War Veterans' Art Center in 1944, which offered art classes to disabled veterans until 1948.

Mrs. Rockefeller's first gift to the new museum was an oil by Bernard Karfiol. Her largest gift, and the largest since the 1934 Bliss bequest, came in 1935 with her presentation of 181 paintings and drawings. This represented practically her entire collection of modern art, gathered over the preceding ten years, and comprised the work of seventy-one American and foreign artists. In 1936, Mrs. Rockefeller gave the museum its first formal purchase funds; these were augmented in 1938 by another gift and increased by half by Nelson A. Rockefeller in his mother's name. The 1938 fund, named the Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. Purchase Fund, was unrestricted. In 1949, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Print Room opened at MoMA, housing Abby's gift of 1600 prints, which had been given nine years earlier. In addition to her gifts to the Museum of Modern Art, Abby Rockefeller gave substantially to other museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters, which received much of her collection of sculpture and decorative arts; the Rhode Island School of Design, which received her collection of Japanese prints; and the Ludwell-Paradise House at Colonial Williamsburg, which in 1939 received her entire collection of American folk art, collected since 1931.

Mrs. Rockefeller's numerous church activities included service as Vice President of the Women's Bible Class at the 5th Avenue Baptist Church and Honorary Vice President of the Women's Society of Riverside Church. She was a member of the Building Committee of International House, Chairman of the Decorating Committee and one of its trustees. She was a charter member of the Cosmopolitan Club and a member of the Colony Club, the Women's City Club, the National Society of Colonial Dames, the Women's National Republican Club, the Faculty Club of Harvard University, the Mayflower Descendants, and the Garden Club of America, among others.

Abby Rockefeller died April 5, 1948 at her New York apartment.

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Abigail "Abby" Greene Rockefeller (Aldrich)'s Timeline

1874
October 26, 1874
Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA
1901
October 9, 1901
Age 26
1903
November 9, 1903
Age 29
New York, New York, United States
1906
March 21, 1906
Age 31
New York, New York, United States
1908
July 8, 1908
Age 33
Bar Harbor, Hancock, Maine, USA
1910
May 26, 1910
Age 35
New York, New York, United States
1912
May 1, 1912
Age 37
New York City, New York, New York, USA
1912
Age 37
1915
June 12, 1915
Age 40
New York, New York, USA
1948
April 5, 1948
Age 73
New York, New York County, New York