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Abigail Adams: “Remember the Ladies” Mini DBQ

85 min
  • Students will examine gender roles during the time of the American Revolution by analyzing excerpts from the letters of John and Abigail Adams written between 1775 and 1776.
  • Students will systematically analyze primary sources by answering comprehension questions for each document.
  • Students will write a thesis statement that responds to a document-based question prompt.

Abigail Adams’s letters to her husband can be compared with the writings of Mercy Otis Warren Narrative and Judith Sargent Murray Primary Source.

To set the stage for the correspondence they are about to analyze, ask students to recall what was happening in July 1775 in Boston, MA.

Students should recall that, in the siege of Boston, which occurred from April 1775 through March 1776, British troops controlled the city and the port of Boston. The city was the scene of frequent protests and high tension between the British occupiers and Boston residents who opposed their presence.

Direct the students to the introduction in the document packet to introduce the relationship of John and Abigail Adams. Their correspondence during this time allows us to consider how these events affected the everyday lives of the people living at the time.

Have students, working in small groups, analyze Document 1: John to Abigail, John to Abigail, July 7, 1775, and October 29, 1775, answer the questions that accompany the letter excerpts. After they have worked through this document, have students move on to do the same thing with the remaining documents in sequence.

After small groups have worked through the documents, lead a class discussion of questions such as:

  • What was the overall tone of John and Abigail’s correspondence? What does this reveal about their relationship?
  • What specific passages in these letters reflect “job responsibilities” of women at the time of the revolution?
  • How did Abigail Adams respond to these responsibilities? Point to specific passages from the document to support your answer.
  • In what ways does this conception of the proper role of women reflect inconsistencies?
  • How should the Declaration of Independence and/or the Constitution have “remembered the ladies?”
  • How should the documents have remembered other marginalized groups, such as American Indians, enslaved individuals, and indentured servants?

Have each student write a thesis statement to the Mini DBQ prompt: Analyze the impact of the nascent American Revolution on the status of women.