Helen Caroline Abell was a well known and respected rural sociologist. Born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in 1917, her family moved to Toronto, Ontario, where she was raised. She later attended the Macdonald Institute in Guelph and the University of Toronto for Home Economics, continuing on to gain a Masters(1947) and Ph.D.(1951) in rural sociology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Upon graduation, Dr. Abell moved back to Canada to head the Rural Sociology Research Unit for the Economic Division of Canadas Department of Agriculture. She held this position from 1952-62. She moved on from there to teaching positions at the Ontario Agricultural College (1962-67), the University of Waterloo (1967-1972), and finally was Dean of Home Economics at the University of Saskatchewan from 1973-1974. While working with the federal Department of Agriculture and various universities, Abell was highly involved with international studies in the field of rural sociology. She completed projects for the Canadian International Development Agency (C.I.D.A.), UNESCO, and FAO. These projects involved such countries as Columbia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, and Nigeria, and explored such topics as the introduction of farm radio broadcasts in Ghana (a report later published by UNESCO). She published numerous studies, and became renowned as a speaker and consultant. Helen Abell also spent four years with the Canadian Womens Army Corps (during World War II), and a year as the Social Affairs Officer, Community Development Group, for the United Nations.
The Helen C. Abell Collection spans the years 1938-1985, and includes such materials as correspondence, reports, resource material, and publications. It is a substantial collection, and offers an excellent look into the beginnings of rural sociology in Canada, as well as being a good resource for studying family and rural sociology in general. The collection was donated by Helen C. Abell in 1984 and 2002.