Tag Archives: President

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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Franklin Roosevelt’s Greatest Strength

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President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, to a wealthy family in up-state New York. After attending Harvard and Columbia Law School, he focused his sights on the White House by following his relative’s, President Theodore Roosevelt, footsteps by first becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy. His journey to the White House halted in 1921 when Roosevelt became ill while vacationing with family in Canada. After several doctor visits over a span of a couple of weeks, it was discovered that Roosevelt had contacted Poliomyelitis and now had polio. At the age of 31, Roosevelt became paralyzed from the waist down. Roosevelt’s mother begged him to retire from politics, but his wife, Eleanor, would not let him because she knew that he would regret it. Though the current times believed people with disabilities were a burden, Roosevelt would use his paralysis to lead his country through troubled times.

Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia...

Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia  (Wikipedia)

In 1924, Roosevelt learned about Warm Springs, Georgia where the springs were rumored to cure paralysis. At the springs, Roosevelt found that his legs would hold him upright and that he could swim for hours so he bought the springs for $200,000 as a place for polio victims to seek therapeutic treatment; he personally led pool exercises. Though it was $42 a week for a polio victim to stay at the springs, no one was ever turned away due to lack of money because Roosevelt would personally cover the bills. Though the springs never did cure paralysis, it became a place for people with disabilities to seek therapeutic treatment. Roosevelt Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center is still in existence and serves 4,000 people each year.

While Roosevelt was in Georgia, he came in contact with the locals where he saw extreme poverty, something he never forgot about when he became president in 1932. In his first term, the New Deal (set of programs and policies designed to promote economy recovery and social reform) took place. Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act (TVA) because the civilians of Tennessee Valley had an average income of $639 per year and 30% of the population had malaria. The TVA developed new fertilizers, taught farms how to replant forest and improve habitats for wildlife, and created dams that provided electricity. Another important part of the New Deal was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC hired a total of 2.5 million young men who planted 3 billion trees and created 800 parks.Each man was paid $30, but $25 of that was sent back home to his family. Separate programs put 200,000 Blacks to work and the Indian Emergency Conservation Work allowed Native Americans to develop roads and schools on reservations. Congress also passed the Social Security Act; it established  federally funded old-age benefits and funding for states to provide assistance to blind individuals and disabled children, and extended existing vocational rehabilitation programs. Roosevelt never forgot about the people he met in Georgia and made it his goal to put America back to work and to give Americans self-esteem.

One of only a few known photographs of Rooseve...

One of only a few known photographs of Roosevelt in a wheelchair (Wikipedia)

Roosevelt was never photographed in his wheelchair because he did not want Americans to view him as “weak” since he lived at a time when Americans believed people with disabilities were an inferior group of people. He only made two public appearances that showed his paralysis. In 1936, while dedicating a new building at Washington’s Howard University (a Black University) he was asked by the university’s president Dr. Mordecai John if the students could see that he was crippled because the students were crippled because of their race. By seeing that the president was crippled, he would inspire the students. Roosevelt agreed and walked, with his leg braces, painfully down the aisle to the platform. The second time happened in July 1944 when Roosevelt went to Pearl Harbor for strategy sessions. On his spare time, he visited military hospitals. In the amputee ward, Roosevelt was pushed in a wheelchair by Secret Service because he wanted to show his useless legs to those who would face the same affliction. As Sam Rosenman, adviser and speechwriter to Roosevelt, noted “I never saw Roosevelt with tears in his eyes… That day as he was wheeled out of the hospital he was close to them.”

Roosevelt continued to return to Warm Springs every year and every year he was reminded about the poor children in Georgia. Rosenman stated, “He (Roosevelt) made it clear in private conversation that he felt strongly that there was no reason why a child born in some county too poor to sustain a good school system should have to start life in competition with children from sections of the country that had fine schools.” Before World War II, less than 5% of young adults attended college because college was reserved to the wealthy. Roosevelt saw his chance to open education to all of America by using the World War II veterans. In his message to congress he requested federal support for college and vocational training for every returning veteran for up to four years. “Lack of money should not prevent any veteran of this war from equipping himself for the most useful employment for which is aptitudes and willingness qualify him…I believe this Nation is morally obligated to provide this training and education and the necessary financial assistant by which they can secure,” said Roosevelt. The G.I.Bill of Rights passed and Roosevelt signed it into law on June 22, 1944. For the first time in American history,colleges and universities accessible to the common man because Roosevelt saw how important it was for everyone to have education in America.

"HELP ME WIN MY VICTORY^^- JOIN THE MARCH...

Join March of Dimes (Wikipedia)

President Franklin Roosevelt once considered retiring from the public life to focus on getting better, but instead he proved that people with disabilities can overcome obstacles at a time when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were murdering millions of people deemed inferior due to race, religion, and disabilities. Though he never gave up on his dream of regaining the use of his legs, his paralysis opened his eyes to world filled with poverty, unemployment, poor education, and people who needed inspiration. In 1938, Roosevelt organized the March for Dimes; though it currently focuses on infant mortality, it was once the principle fundraiser for research on polio and provided aid for polio victims. On January 30, 1946, what would have been Roosevelt’s 64th birthday, the dime bearing Roosevelt’s face was released in his honor. On April 12, 1955, 10 years after Roosevelt died, Dr. Jonas Salk announced that that there was a cure for polio…the research was primary funded by Roosevelt’s March of Dimes. As Eleanor said, “Franklin’s illness . . . gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons — infinite patience and never-ending persistence.

Polio victims lay wreaths at Roosevelt’s grave (History.com)

Source: Smith, Jean Edward. FDR. New York: Random House, 2007. 186-636. Print.