We often ask what our Founding Fathers intended when they began the experiment we call, the United States of America.
I’m intrigued by one of the Founding Mothers, Abigail Adams, who greatly influenced the direction the United States would ultimately follow. Wife of President John Adams and mother of President John Quincy Adams, she was passionate in her understanding of what freedom meant. We learn much about her through letters written to her husband, as they hashed out what this new nation would be.
Considering the plight of slaves, she wrote to John, *“I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in this province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me — to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.”
As for women’s rights, Abigail told her husband, “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.
“That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity? Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex; regard us then as Beings placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.”
It would almost be fifty years before the Suffrage movement began, demanding women have the right to vote. Another hundred years would pass before the movement succeeded. Today, I give thanks for these women, including Abigail Adams, who went before me, paving the way for the women of my generation and those who follow.
“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.” Psalm 67:4
*Letter to John Adams (24 September 1774)
** Letter to John Adams (31 March 1776), published in Familiar Letters of John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams (1875) edited by Charles Francis Adams, p. 147
I still remember playing the role of Abigail Adams in a play in high school. These letters were part of the script. I was impressed even then.
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It sounds like those were formative moments for you. Abigail Adams is a fascinating woman.
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