Abate was born in Stigliano, Basilicata, Italy on 15 November 1909 to an American father, Joseph, and an Italian mother, Mary. She had two brothers and six sisters. The family emigrated to the United States in 1919, settling in Buffalo, New York. At the age of 17, she started working as a seamstress, and was later employed as a cook.
Abate never married and had no children. As a centenarian, she enjoyed attending outings facilitated by her nursing home. On her 112th birthday, Abate claimed that the secret to her longevity was “a cup of tea every morning.”
After the death of Ida Zoccarato on 16 January 2022, Abate became the oldest living woman born in Italy. She was not the oldest person born in Italy, as Brazil resident Delio Venturotti was three weeks older. She died on 7 May 2022 at the age of 112 years, 173 days. Her sister Angeline, then 98, was the only one of her siblings to outlive her.