Mabel Louise Potter, only child of the Hobby boys’ Aunt Ellen Potter, was closer to Will than the other Hobby brothers or their sister Ruth. She admired and shared Will’s interest in plant and animal wildlife and his adventurous spirit, and perhaps had more opportunity to interact with him because he was particularly fond of his Aunt Ellen.
Mabel’s influence on Will and his family continued for three generations, and shaped my own growth and experience as if she had been a third parent.
Mabel had graduated from Pembroke College in Brown University in 1897 with her strength of personality well developed. She had confronted the Dean with a request for physical education classes for women as well as men and was not put off by his recommendation that the ladies might walk, presumably in sedate lines, around the campus. Her insistence led to her appointment, after graduation, as women’s physical education instructor, a position I believe she held for a year or so.
Letters and family stories reveal her “out early this morning, tramping” in Cuba, enjoying an overnight hike and camp-out (sleeping on the ground with one blanket) on a mountain in Washington State, and riding horseback up a volcano while on T guided tour of Mexico at age 80.
Cousin Mabel deserves her place in the Panama records if only for the fact that she saved some of Will’s letters and the journal which he sent, not to his parents or brothers, but to her.
The above photo is labeled “New York, 1908.”