Thelma W. Babbitt 1906-2004Thelma was born to George and Bertha Wright in Natick, Massachusetts. She married Rowell Chickering, and her son Arthur was born in 1927. Thelma and Rowell divorced, and in 1945 she married George Babbitt. They lived in Cambridge MA, where she was active in the League of Women Voters. They came frequently to George’s old farmhouse on Prospect Hill in Hancock. After George died of Cancer in 1951, Thelma went to work for the American Friends Service Committee. Her work in addressing race relations issues included Employment on Merit programs in Columbus OH and Baton Rouge LA, and Equal Opportunity Housing programs in Philadelphia PA suburbs. The Quaker Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas called on her for community organization work to address the violent school integration conflicts during the Governor Faubus administration. She next moved to the Quaker UN program in New York City, and subsequently returned to be based in Hancock as an AFSC fundraiser for the New England Region. Following her retirement she turned her considerable talents, copious energy, and social concern to environmental issues. She first initiated a Sierra Club chapter in Southern New Hampshire. Then she became a member of the board that, with Eleanor Briggs’ generous support, created the Harris Center for Conservation Education. She remained an active contributor to the Center, on and off the board, through 2003. Once Thelma settled in Hancock, she became part of the fledgling Monadnock Quaker Meeting, where she remained active in efforts to promote environmental awareness and social justice. Even when she was no longer able to come to the meeting house, she enjoyed hosting Peace and Social Concerns committee meetings in her home. She also encouraged Friends to come in small groups to worship with her in the quiet living room of her beloved farmhouse. Throughout her adult years Thelma’s lifestyle matched her principles and convictions. She has been a beacon of inspiration, integrity, and commitment for her extended family and for all who have known her. The photograph below is of Thelma's obituary in the Peterbororough Transcript or March 4, 2004, page 13.
Writing in the Aril issue of the Meeting newsletter, Eleanor Cappa had this to say:
I would like to share a message that came to me during Meeting that I did not speak to. With the memorial service for Thelma Babbitt still fresh on my mind, the words "released Friend" came to me. I thought, "Oh here is a new way of thinking of what that process is." What a wonderful way it was that Monadnock Quaker Meeting helped guide that memorial, the circle of chairs making a container for the silent worship and sharing of thoughts and memories of Thelma's ninety-seven years. Family, friends, Friends, co-workers, and otheres whose lives she had touched spoke of all the dimensions of her character. We then shared refreshments and more talk. It was a beautiful sendoff. I felt like we relesed her into her next adventure in a style that is appropriate, respectful, and primarily Quaker. She lived her faith in everyday practices and we released her to rest in deep peace. I am confident that the light that is hers will continue to shine.