Abigail G. Whittelsey grew up in the prominent Goodrich family of Connecticut. Her father, Samuel Goodrich, was a Congregational minister, and her brother Charles A. Goodrich became a Congregational minister, as well as a writer of popular texts. Another brother, Samuel G. Goodrich, would become a prolific writer of juveniles under the pseudonym Peter Parley. In 1808, she married Samuel Whittelsey (1775-1842), a Congregational minister in New Preston, Connecticut. From New Preston, the couple moved to Hartford when Samuel became the superintendent of the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in 1818. From Hartford, they moved to Canandaigua, New York, after Samuel became the head of a female seminary there. In 1828 they moved to Utica, where they founded and ran a female seminary.
While in Utica, Abigail Whittelsey became involved in the Utica Maternal Association, which provided an opportunity for mothers to learn from one another. In general, maternal associations were one of many evangelical efforts to bring revivalism into the home. In 1833, she assumed the editorship of the group’s new periodical, the Mother’s Magazine, which was the first such publication. It featured letters, memoirs, essays, and advice. The following year, the couple moved to New York City and took the magazine with them, with Samuel becoming its publisher. After his death in 1842, Abigail Whittelsey continued as the magazine’s editor with the help of a brother-in-law, the Rev. Darius Mead. But in the late 1840s, after a new proprietor endeavored to make the publication more commercial by adding plates and popular reading material, Abigail Whittelsey left. In 1850, with assistance from her son Henry, she founded and edited Mrs. Whittelsey’s Magazine for Mothers and Daughters, which lasted only two years.