At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams, the wife of future President John Adams, wrote a letter to her husband. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress at the time. An excerpt in her letter addresses woman’s rights, as follows:
“I long to hear that you have declared for independency, and in the new code of laws, which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire that you would remember the ladies and be more generous to them than were your ancestors. If particular care is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound to obey any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
This is a remarkable and bold statement by Abigail Adams at the time, especially when she said that women were “determined to foment a rebellion.” However, her request came to no avail. The Continental Congress left the subject of suffrage to be dealt with to the states.
When the Quaker faith gained a foothold in the fledgling colonies, the religion’s belief that all people were equal became a world where women could speak and were respected for their individual abilities.
Abigail (Smith) Adams was born on November 11, 1744, in Weymouth, Massachusetts. “Her father, William Smith, was a well-respected (Quaker) minister who provided his daughter with the most complete educational opportunities available to women in the pre-Revolutionary period. She read not only the Bible, but Shakespeare, the English Classics and some French, and kept up to date with the newspapers of the day. She also learned to write quite proficiently, as evidenced by the volumes of letters published by her grandson Charles Francis in the 19th century.”1
As the nation struggled with its independence from Britain, and its collective conscience wrestled with the injustice of slavery, considerations of toward the rights of women naturally began to take root as well.2
Impressed by Abigail’s intellect and wit, the future president John Adams married Abigail on October 25, 1764, in Weymouth, Massachusetts, and they resided in Boston. When the Continental Congress was formed, he was sent as a delegate from Massachusetts to the body. Adams was one of the boldest in the march of resistance to tyranny, and even ventured to suggest plans of self-government and independence. John Adams communicated his thoughts freely with his wife and when he was appointed to represent his country as a diplomat to France, Abigail went with him.
She made an excellent cabinet member
An article published in the New England Galaxy, February 1819 stated the following about Abigail Adams:
“Through the drawing-room, she diffused ease and urbanity, and gave the charm of modesty and sincerity, to the interchanges of civility. But this was not all; her acquaintance with public affairs, her discrimination of character, her discernment of the signs of times, and her pure patriotism, made her an excellent cabinet minister; and to the honor of her husband, he never forgot nor undervalued her worth. The politicians of that period speak with enthusiasm of her foresight, her prudence, and the wisdom of her observations.”3
“She was among the most influential of First Ladies, and as such, was a substantial voice for change…. she was among the first in America to describe on paper the inequity of women’s status in the patriarchy.”4
Despite the numerous duties as the wife of a statesman, Mrs. Adams did not forget her role as a parent. They had four children, Abigail, John Quincy, Charles, and Thomas in whom she instilled the same ideals of their parents. Their son John Quincy Adams became the seventh President of the United States seven years after her death on October 28, 1818, at the age of 74.
3Female Biography: Containing Notices of Distinguished Women, in Different Nations and Ages, by Samuel Lorenzo Knapp, J. Carpenter, 1834
Faith and Courage: A Novel of Colonial America Inspired by real people and actual events, the family saga of colonial America continues with Ambrose Dixon’s family. Faith and Courage presents the religious persecution of Quakers in Pre-Revolutionary War days of America intertwined with a love story