Historically Yours : Remember the ladies or a rebellion!

Abigail Adams, wife of our second President John Adams, when asked to compare herself to her predecessor, Martha Washington, responded, “I was less lady and more co-president.” Abigail’s entire married life had been a true partnership. John eagerly sought her advice on almost all matters, including presidential decisions, caller her “my dearest partner…my worthiest, wisest friend in the world… I think you shine as Stateswoman.” Abigail was born into a prominent Massachusetts family, famous for its history of public service. She was raised during a century when only sons received formal education. Daughters were prepared for marriage. Abigail’s father, however, soon found his daughter to be an eager pupil for his lectures on philosophy, the classics and economics. At 20, she married John, the Harvard educated lawyer. The letters of Abigail and John are a cherished part of heritage of our nation at the time of its founding. John was brilliant while Abigail was dynamic. From the beginning, it was decided that Abigail would stay home, raise the family and manage the farm, investments and finances. When John was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774, Abigail served as “advisor in absentia.” She wrote on the intricate detail of government, world and economic affairs. John admonished her when family illnesses kept her from writing.

In March 31, 1776 (four months prior to the Declaration of Independence) while John was at Philadelphia cautiously conferring with Jefferson, Abigail write her famous letter: “I Long to her that you have declared an independency and in the new Code of Laws… I desire that you remember the Ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors! Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care … 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.’ John replied urging Abigail to be patient on the “Declarations of Independency” and remined his “saucy” wife, “Our masculine systems are little more than Theory. In practice you know that we are the subjects. We have only the names of Masters and … give up this… would completely subject us to the Despotism of the Petticoat.” While John was serving as Minister in France, Abigail wrote to John about sex, reminding him that the sexual urge diminishes in men his age. John promptly responded that she would find out otherwise upon his return to her. When asked what her true role in life was, she responded: “I will never consent to have our sec considered… inferior… Let each planet shine in their own orbit…. if man is Lord, women is Lordess- that is what I contend for.”

Sources: H History, This Day In History, “March 21,1776 – Abigail Adams urges Husband to remember the ladies,”;Bartleby.com, “Essay on Remember the Ladies’ Abigail Adams Analysis,”: H America in Class from National Humanities Center, “Abigail Adams and ‘Remember the Ladies’”; Reproduced from the Original Electronic Text at the Massachusetts Historical Society, “Abigail Adams ‘ Remember the Ladies’ Letter,” A reproduction of the hand written letter is available here.


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