Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March is Women's History Month - March 1st: Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams, circa 1776
portrait by Benjamin Blythe
courtesy Wikipedia
Having mentioned her husband John Adams, and the Sedition Act of 1798 in a previous post today, it seemed only fair to give consideration at the beginning of Women's History Month to his wife Abigail Adams.
Abigail Adams, later in life
portrait by Gilbert Stuart
courtesy of Wikipedia

As our first 'second lady', the wife of Adams when he was our first vice president, and second 'first lady' when Adams followed George Washington in that honor (1797 - 1801, Abigail Adams was a powerful influence in her own right, on behalf of women.  Her own words on the subject of women in our early history, taken from letters to her husband over the years of their marriage, are more eloquent than anything I could provide on her behalf:
Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.

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.

It is really mortifying, sir, when a woman possessed of a common share of understanding considers the difference of education between the male and female sex, even in those families where education is attended to... Nay why should your sex wish for such a disparity in those whom they one day intend for companions and associates. Pardon me, sir, if I cannot help sometimes suspecting that this neglect arises in some measure from an ungenerous jealousy of rivals near the throne.

Great necessities call out great virtues. (that seems a particularly timely observation - DG)

Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex.

The only chance for much intellectual improvement in the female sex, was to be found in the families of the educated class and in occasional intercourse with the learned.

I regret the trifling narrow contracted education of the females of my own country.  (me too - Palin, Bachmann and O'Donnell come to mind)

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.

I am more and more convinced that Man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in many or a few is ever grasping, and like the grave cries give, give. The great fish swallow up the small, and he who is most strenuous for the Rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the prerogatives of Government. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which Humane Nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances.
 My compliments and gratitude to Jone Johnson Lewis  for her quote collection for the above.
Happy Women's History Month - I hope to do one of these each day of March in celebration.

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