“If particular care and attention 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.” 1776
Abigail Smith Adams was born in Massachusetts, a descendant of the distinguished Quincy family. Though Abigail received no formal education, she was taught to read and write at home and, with access to the libraries of her father and grandfather, educated herself in philosophy, theology, Shakespeare, the classics, ancient history, government, and law. She married a young lawyer named John Adams in 1764. They settled on a farm in Braintree, Massachusetts and had several children, including son John Quincy Adams.
Abigail raised the children and ran the farm while John traveled throughout the country and served overseas. This separation led to a lifelong correspondence that constitutes not only a record of their marriage, but also a record of public issues of the time and the opinions and relationships of the Founders. During John Adams’s presidency, these letters were sometimes intercepted by political opponents, so Abigail aided the administration by writing editorial letters and encouraging the publication of their information and the viewpoint presented.
This broadcast of her views in public was characteristic of Abigail, who openly shared her opinions with her husband on many matters. In 1776, she wrote to her husband that the institution of a new form of government could be an opportunity to give women equal status to men, and though she could not convince John Adams, these letters are now regarded as some of the earliest known to call for women’s equal rights. In particular, Abigail strongly advocated equal education for girls in public schools. She famously requested that the framers of the Constitution “remember the ladies,” telling her husband that “all men would be tyrants if they could.” She also told John that she believed there was a need for the Alien and Sedition Acts. A firm abolitionist, Abigail Adams was a staunch supporter of the emancipation of slaves all her life.
You can learn about Abigail Adams and other Founders with America’s Founders Online.
Abigail Adams embodied several important civic values. You can learn more about civic values through Americapedia.