Not Just Another Pretty Face – Abigail Adams

There were plenty of courageous and intelligent women who served and fought for independence during the American Revolutionary War. These” Daughters of Liberty” did more than their share to help win America’s freedom. Here’s a story of another who played a significant role.

Abigail Adams is best known as the wife of our second President of the United States John Adams, the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, and for for her extensive correspondence.  

Abigail Adams was the wife of American Patriot and Founding Father John Adams. John Adams was known to be cranky, ill-tempered, and just plain grumpy at times.  But he probably would have been a lot grumpier without the care and support of Abigail, his wife of fifty-four years, who he called his “Portia”. (If you’ve ever read William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, then you know that Portia is the beautiful and smart heroine of the play.)

In 1775 the Massachusetts Colony General Court appointed Abigail Adams, Mercy Warren, and the governor’s wife, Hannah Winthrop, to question fellow Massachusetts women who pledged by their word or deed to remain loyal to the British crown and worked against the independence movement.  

John Adams wrote to his wife saying, “you are now a politician and now elected into important office, that of judges of Tory ladies…

As the Second Continental Congress was debating the Declaration of Independence, Abigail wrote in her letters to John her argument that now, with the a new form of government, it was the perfect time to start the effort to make the legal status of women equal to that of men.

Abigail remained in Braintree to manage the farm and household and raise their children while John carried on his work as statesman and leading advocate for American independence. At that time women did not normally handle business affairs, but Abigail kept everything going at home. She traded livestock, hired help, bought land, oversaw construction, and supervised the planting and harvesting, no small tasks for anyone.

She once wrote, “I hope in time to have the reputation of being as good a Farmess as my partner has of being a good Statesman.”

Abigail served as unofficial advisor to John throughout his entire career. Their letters to each other clearly show how he sought her counsel on many issues, including his aspirations to be President.

Thankfully, their extensive collection of correspondence allows us to learn what an extraordinary woman Abigail Adams was.Two of Abigail Adams’ more notable quotes are:

“Great necessities call out great virtues.”

“If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women.”


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