Wednesday Wonderful Women: Abigail Adams

I am somewhat smitten by Abigail Adams.  I am impressed by her involvement in the government and her strong opinions around rights, civic duty, and womanhood.  Her life is well-documented because of rich written correspondences.

Though she believed her main role in life to be wife and mother, Abigail Adams also was a behind-the-scenes stateswoman. She used her talents to maintain her family during the many absences of her husband, John Adams, the second president of the United States, and to advise her husband about women’s rights and slavery. Her detailed letters with her husband, family, and friends provide a historical record of the times and show her to have been a woman ahead of her time.”

Abigail did not receive formal education due to her health as a child.  She was taught to read and write at home.  Her father was a Congregationalist minister, and her mother was the daughter of John Quincy, a member of the colonial Governor’s council and colonel of the militia.  Abigail married John Adams, (later the second President of the United States) on October 25, 1764 when she was 19.  They had five children and one still born baby.  She was the mother of John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States.

Abigail on adversity:
May justice and righteousness be the stability of our times, and order arise out of confusion. Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.”These are times in which a Genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orator, if he had not been roused, kindled and enflamed by the Tyranny of Catiline, Millo, Verres and Mark Anthony? The Habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All History will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruits of experience, not the Lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the Heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into Life, and form the Character of the Hero and the Statesman.””Great necessities call out great virtues.”

Abigail on service:

If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?

“I consider it as a sacrifice to my Country and one of my greatest misfortunes (for my husband) to be separated from my children at a time of life when the joint instructions and admonition of parents sink deeper than in more mature years.

“How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking! How often are the laurels worn by those who have had no share in earning them! But there is a future recompense of reward, to which the upright man looks, and which he will most assuredly obtain, provided he perseveres unto the end.”

Abigail on womanhood & education:

If we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would laugh at me, and accuse me of vanity, but you I know have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the Sentiment. If much depends as is allowed upon the early Education of youth and the first principals which are instill’d take the deepest root, great benefit must arise from literary accomplishments in women.

“Patriotism in the female sex is the most disinterested of all virtues. Excluded from honours and from offices, we cannot attach ourselves to the State or Government from having held a place of eminence. Even in the freest countries our property is subject to the control and disposal of our partners, to whom the laws have given a sovereign authority. Deprived of a voice in legislation, obliged to submit to those laws which are imposed upon us, is it not sufficient to make us indifferent to the public welfare? Yet all history and every age exhibit instances of patriotic virtue in the female sex; which considering our situation equals the most heroic of yours.

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And by the way, 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 favourable to them than your ancestors (were). Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. 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.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.”

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

Abigail on patriotism:

A people fired … with love of their country and of liberty, a zeal for the public good, and a noble emulation of glory, will not be disheartened or dispirited by a succession of unfortunate events. But like them, may we learn by defeat the power of becoming invincible.”

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abigail_Adams; http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=2; http://www.notablebiographies.com/A-An/Adams-Abigail.html; http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1479.Abigail_Adams; http://www.yummy-quotes.com/abigail-adams-quotes.html;

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