“If we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would laugh at me, and accuse me of vanity, but you I know have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the Sentiment. If much depends as is allowed upon the early Education of youth and the first principals which are instill’d take the deepest root, great benefit must arise from literary accomplishments in women. ” – Abigail Adams
This week we are celebrating the great actions which led to our country declaring its independence from England. You will hear well deserved praise for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and John Adams. But, you may not hear about the contributions made by their female counterparts who played an integral role in our nation’s founding. Often overlooked, these women influenced policy, fought on the frontlines of the revolution, nursed the sick and wounded, held families together, and made unfathomable sacrifices in fighting for the freedom they valued so highly. One of those women was Abigail Adams.
As the wife of John Adams, Abigail was an active participant in the earliest days of the revolution. While John Adams was often traveling for his law practice or for the continental congress, Abigail tended to their home, farm, and children alone. Her economic prowess allowed their farm and finances to prosper as she made savvy property transactions and business deals during John’s long absences. Living near Boston, they were in the thick of the earliest conflicts between the British troops and sons of liberty. The terrifying realities of a revolution pressed upon her life daily. Friends were killed in conflicts, small pox was rampant, goods were in short supply, and uncertainty permeated every aspect of their lives. Even in the midst of so much turmoil, Abigail remained a staunch supporter of liberty and the quest for independence.
Although John and Abigail were frequently separated, they shared a unity of heart mind through their almost 1200 letters. In these letters we see the devotion of Abigail to her family, her God, and her country. We also get a glimpse of her sharp wit and the value her husband placed on her opinion. In one of her most famous letters, Abigail encouraged John to “remember the ladies” as he was forming this new country,
“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
She was also a staunch opponent to slavery as well as an advocate for the education of women. As first lady she was actively involved in politics as well as establishing the face of our fledgling country. The wife of one president and mother to another, her influence and wisdom shaped America. In short, a remarkable woman by any standard.
“A people fired … with love of their country and of liberty, a zeal for the public good, and a noble emulation of glory, will not be disheartened or dispirited by a succession of unfortunate events. But like them, may we learn by defeat the power of becoming invincible.” -Abigail Adams
If you are looking to learn more about this remarkable heroine, here are a few options:
Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober
First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph Ellis
And the stunning John Adams miniseries (available to watch on Amazon Prime) really brings the relationship between John and Abigail to life.