Abigail Adams: Wife and Mother of Two Presidents and our First Feminist
“If you complain of neglect of Education in sons, what shall I say with regard to daughters, who every day experience the want of it?” -Abigail Adams
July is a month in which history is celebrated, American history to be precise. What we now call the United States was born during the summer of 1776, during a hot summer a bunch of dudes got together and decided we were going to be free from the tyranny of the British crown (in a nutshell). We often hear of those famous men and the words they shared because they were and still are important, they still have an impact on us and they are still relevant, but we often overlook the women who stood by their side through thick and thin. Through the riots, wars, distance and disease. The 18th century was a time of revolution in many respects, the New World was thriving and becoming independent while knowledge and cultures were expanding and coming to terms with logic, science and art.
Abigail Adams is a name most of us should know from our high school history classes, likely because her husband, John Adams, was the second president of the United States and her son, John Quincy Adams, was the sixth president of the United States. These are not common traits for every woman, nor are they solid reasons we should remember her.
She in her own right can be considered a Founding Mother of our nation. She can be considered America’s First Feminist. Abigail was born in 1744 in Massachusetts Bay, British America and lacked a formal education as a child though she was taught to read, write and cipher. She married John Adams in 1764 and it is through this union she was able to influence the revolution. Abigail was outspoken on her views against slavery and her and her husband never owned slaves, unlike most other Founders. She instead hired workers as she need them to help on the farm while John was away on his many diplomatic missions. It was Abigail who raised a family, tended a farm, handled the finances, purchased land and acted as a guide to her husband during life and the American Revolution, none of which should be taken lightly.
Abigail advocated for education, the war closed public schools and so Abigail homeschooled her children but kept pushing for better educational opportunities for girls during times of peace. Abigail knew that girls and the women they would become were assets to society and education would only enhance society as a whole. Abigail was not shy about her opinions and it is because of this she became her husbands most trusted advisor, he sought her advice endlessly throughout their marriage and his political positions. Abigail urged her husband to “remember the ladies” when constitutional laws were being drafted. She believed women should have the right to vote and hold public office, she knew the worth of women while the world around her shut their eyes.
John needed Abigail, she was his pillar and if it weren’t for her our nation’s history could have turned out differently. They wrote each other like they knew letters were going out of fashion and it is because of her letters we have a better understanding of the founding of our nation, the role of women in society and what life was like in early America.
“If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women”- Abigail Adams
Written By: Alicia Whitcome