Osie Marie K. Abbott

1863, Papillion Creek, Nebraska – 1946, San Gabriel, California

A Nebraskan from territorial days to the early 1920s, Osie Abbott was an innovative, self-supporting woman known for her pottery and teaching abilities. In the 1932 book, Nebraska Art and Artists by Clarissa Bucklin, Osie was described as a “pioneer potter and teacher of art pottery”…unique for “using Nebraska clay.” (Bucklin) She was born in 1863 in Papillion Creek, now a part of Irvington in northwest Omaha. She was the fifth of eleven children of Clara and Luther Abbott, who had arrived in the territory in 1860 from Troy, Ohio. Luther Abbott had both a college education and medical certification from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. ‘Out west’ the Abbotts were looking for a location with ‘boomtown’ potential where Luther could earn money in the future as Dr. Abbott, and where they could farm and raise sheep in the meantime to support their growing family. Papillion Creek was amenable to farmers and stock raisers because of plentiful water and timber, but ‘boomtown’ did not happen. So in 1866, the family, now with six children, moved to Fontanelle, north of Omaha, which had about a dozen families, many more Pawnee Indians, and a railroad link to Omaha in its near future. However, like Papillion Creek, the ‘boomtown’ expectation did not happen there either.

In 1868, the Abbotts, now with seven children including five-year-old Osie, settled in Fremont, west of Omaha, which became their hometown until the early 1890s. Osie attended the local school. Her mother had five more children, and her father became a highly respected physician and active in the community. He served on the Fremont Board of Health and Board of Education; wrote the Centennial History of Dodge County; and gave the main address at the town’s centennial celebration. He worked statewide to organize the Nebraska Medical Society, which he served as President in 1877. From 1871 to 1881, he served as U.S. Examining Surgeon for pension applicants, and in 1896, he took a job in Lincoln as Superintendent of the State Insane Asylum.

Apparently Osie’s parents were strongly committed to her education. For high school, they sent her to Omaha to Brownell Hall, a girls’ boarding school founded in 1863 by the Episcopal Church Diocese. For many years, it was the best source of formal education for women in Nebraska and the surrounding region. The curriculum combined hard-core academics with Episcopalian preaching about high moral standards and ‘ladylike’ comportment. Osie graduated in 1888, which meant she was older than most of her peers. Many of the young female graduates became wives of prominent businessmen, especially in Omaha, but not Osie. Her goal was art education, which she, thanks to prosperous parents, received at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and at Cooper Union Women’s Art School in New York. Founded in 1852, Cooper Union, like Brownell Hall, was unique because it offered sophisticated education to aspiring women artists of late 19th century America.

Well trained as a fine artist and as a teacher, Osie set about making pottery while working as an educator. Her teaching locations were Stevens Point, Wisconsin, 1900; Freeport, Illinois, 1901 and 1902; State Teachers College, Natchitoches, Louisiana, summer of 1903; and Tri-County Normal Summer School, Claremont, Oklahoma, 1909. From 1907 to 1911, Osie took a job as classroom teacher and art supervisor for the public schools in Fremont, Nebraska. This arrangement allowed her to be with her ailing mother, who died in 1911. The next year, Osie settled in Omaha where she set up a private studio that she maintained for the next six years.

In that era, it was unusual for a single woman artist to market her wares directly from a studio. Osie’s unique circumstance combined with the quality of her pottery stirred feature-story attention from the Omaha World-Herald on October 4, 1914. From 1920 to 1921, when the post-war economy in Nebraska was very stressed, she took her last teaching job in Nebraska, in Otoe, a village of mostly German Lutherans northwest of Nebraska City. Then she and her younger sister, Jane Abbott, moved to California and lived the remainder of their lives together in San Gabriel in Los Angeles County. For the next decade, Osie worked as a potter and taught classes, and during the last six years of her life, she lived in the Protestant Episcopal Home for the Aged in San Gabriel. After her death in 1946, her body was returned to Nebraska and buried in the family plot at Ridge Cemetery, Fremont.

Osie Abbott is not represented in the Museum of Nebraska Art collection.


Ancestry.com, Mar. 2015
Bucklin, Clarissa, Nebraska Art and Artists, p. 27, Print
“Cooper Union Women’s Art School Timeline,” The Cooper Union for the
Advancement of Science and Art
, Web, Feb. 2015
“Fontanelle, Nebraska,” Wikipedia, Web. Jan. 2014
“Fremont, Nebraska,” Wikipedia, Web, Jan. 2014
“Irvington, Nebraska,” Wikipedia, Web, Jan. 2014
“Luther Jewett Abbott, 1831-1900,” Nebraska State Historical Society, Web, Mar.  2015
Morton, J. Sterling, Illustrated History of Nebraska, Volume II, p. 510, Print
Omaha World-Herald, newspaper: 3/8/1946
“Papillion Creek,” Wikipedia, Web, Jan. 2014
Potter, Fannie M. Clark, Historical Sketch of Brownell Hall, p. 122, Print

Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

Museum of Nebraska Art Project:
Their Place, Their Time: Women Artists in Nebraska, 1825-1945