Abigail Adams: Founding Woman

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Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe, 1766

Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe, 1766 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In history classes, the American children learned about the Founding Fathers, the political leaders who participated in the American Revolution and established the United States Constitution. They learn about George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin… but why aren’t they taught about the Founding Women? The women who raised these men to become leaders and the wives of these men who gave them advice and the daughters of these men who took care of them as they grew old? It is because women worked behind the scenes, while the men gained all the glory. When 1,200 letters of the correspondence between President John Adams and Abigail Adams were found, it was discovered that John depended on his wife to take care of the house, the children, and he depended on her for advice.

Abigail Smith was born on November 22, 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Like many women at that time, Abigail never received formal education, however, her mother taught her and her sisters how to read and write. Abigail fell in love with reading, a trait that John Adams loved about her. The two married in 1764 and lived in Braintree, Massachusetts. When John’s law practice grew, he moved the family to Boston and traveled as a circuit judge, leading Abigail to take care of the four children.

In 1774, John went to Philadelphia to serve as his colony’s delegate to the First Continental Congress. At home, Abigail was appointed by Massachusetts Colony General Court to question Massachusetts women who were charged by their word or action of remaining loyal to the British crown; this was Abigail’s first government position. Since John was away most of the time, the two kept in touch by sending letters to each, 1,200 letters in fact. Through these letters, John usually asked for Abigail’s opinion and advice. She wrote to her husband requesting that he “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 formant a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” Sadly, the men did forget about the women.

In 1784, Abigail left her family, friends, and farm to join John at his diplomatic post in Paris. In 1785, she became wife of the first United States Minister to Great Britain. They returned to Massachusetts in 1788. When John Adams became Vice-President, she helped Martha Washington entertain guests in Philadelphia, the nation’s capitol at that time. When John became president, Abigail missed his inaugural ceremony in 1797 because she was talking care of his sick mother. Besides entertaining guests as the First Lady, Abigail was taking care of her 3-year-old granddaughter since her son, Charles, died from Alcoholism in 1800. As the First Lady, her controversial quotes and private letters, stolen from the mail system, were published in the newspapers. She was nicknamed “Mrs. President” because her advice asked her advice on everything, which at the time was amusing because a man asking a woman for help was not common. When John failed to become president for a second term, Abigail was happy to be done with the public life. The two finally were able to enjoy each other’s company until she died on October 28, 1818.

Abigail Adams, like many women at the time during the Revolutionary War, had to take care of the family and home while her husband was away during wartime. Since John was a politician, he was hardly ever home, leaving Abigail to raise the children. One of the children, John Quincy Adams, would become one of the greatest politicians of all time, including one term as President. Since his father was gone most of his childhood, it was Abigail ensuring that John and the rest of the children were educated. For John to ask his wife for advice concerning national and international affairs meant that Abigail was intelligent. Though he was teased for it, their relationship showed that the two truly loved each other for they trusted and listened to each other. John Adams and John Quincy Adams are considered two of the greatest politicians of American History thanks to Abigail’s guidance as a wife and mother.

Sources:

Abigail Smith Adams

First Lady Biography: Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams. biography

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Remember Our Heritage: A Leading First Lady | For Christ's Crown & Covenant!

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