Abigail Adams is remembered for being the wife and mother of two United States presidents, but that is not all she was. Even though she passed almost two hundred years ago, Mrs. Adams is still relevant today. She is fondly remembered for highlighting the plight of women during colonial and post-colonial times and the absolute power that was given to men, some of who, as she believed, misused it. This was done through letters she sent to her husband, the second president of the United States John Adams, and to Mercy Otis Warren. These letters, today, are an efficient reference to use as they assist in the understanding of life was during colonial times, both public and private. The letters were published by John and Abigails grandson as a memoir and are available for purchase (Shields & Teute, 2015).
Abigail Adams is remembered today for two main things. One of the reasons she is a fundamental figure in history is her letters to her husband. Apart from the letters being a form of correspondence between her husband and herself when he required advice on political decisions, Abigail wrote to him to make requests that were important to her. In the 1700s, the lives of married women were governed by a doctrine in which the husband and the wife were regarded as one person, the husband. Married women were not allowed to vote, sign legal documents, keep personal wages, or obtain an education unless the husband permitted it. Women had no representation in politics either and were entirely dependent on men (Gould, 2014).
One of the most memorable times she did this was when her husband and other leaders were structuring the government and drafting the code of laws of the United States in Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Abigail requested her husband to change the laws of the nations being made to focus on womens rights. In a letter to her husband dubbed Remember the Ladies, she requested that women be recognized as more than mere property and should be protected from the authoritarian and uncontrolled power men had over the women in the society (Hubbard-Brown, 2009). This is the most famous letter written by Mrs. Adams. President John Adams took her request lightly and did not implement it. Because of this, she wrote letters to her educated friend, Mercy Otis Warren asking her to petition Congress to change the laws so as to favor women. Abigail never received a reply from Warren. Still not giving up on her quest, she wrote another letter to President Adams and the whole of Congress, insisting that women be freed from the bondage in which the law had put them. Her request was, however, never approved. Even though she owned property and made financial decisions on behalf of her family, something that did not happen at the time, Abigail continued to fight for the rights of women.
The second first lady of the United States is also remembered for her passion for the education of the girl child. Although she was not formally educated, she was taught to read and write at home and had access to her fathers library. She had such passion for education that she spent most of her free time writing. Moreover, Abigail was an advocate for equal public primary school education for all children. She believed that boys and girls had a right to formal schooling and that the system should allow for that. Throughout her youth, it is claimed, she only did not sing or dance as the other girls did. She instead educated herself (Hubbard-Brown, 2009). For a woman in the 18th century, Abigail fought for the rights of those who did not have the same opportunities she had. Because of this, she will continue to be remembered and honored as an important figure in history (Gould, 2014).
Hubbard-Brown, J. (2009). Abigail Adams: First Lady. Infobase Publishing.
Gould, L. L. (2014). American first ladies: Their lives and their legacy. Routledge.
Shields, D. S., &Teute, F. J. (2015). The Court of Abigail Adams. Journal of the Early Republic, 35(2), 227-235.
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