Abigail Smith Adams
Women’s Rights Proponent and First Lady
By Kathleen McFaddenAbigail Smith Adams
Abigail Smith Adams had a front-row seat to the birth of a nation. She already had deep roots in America by the time the colonists began agitating for freedom from English rule in the 1700s. Both her mother’s and her father’s families had lived in the colonies for generations when Abigail was born in 1744. In keeping with the era’s expectations for women, Abigail received no formal education, but she did have a lively intellect and read so extensively that she became one of the best-read women of her time. Her intelligence and inquiring mind gave her an understanding of the American desire for political freedom that was relatively uncommon among women of the day.
She was a bit aloof, however, and didn’t make much of an impression on John Adams the first time they met. When they met a second time two years later, however, the two immediately connected and throughout their 54-year marriage, Adams considered Abigail his best friend and closest advisor. Although her husband’s election to the Continental Congress kept them apart a great deal during the Revolutionary War, Abigail wrote to him constantly. She was a gifted letter-writer, even though she was embarrassed by her poor penmanship and spelling, and she is best remembered for the progressive views she espoused in her numerous epistles, not only to her husband but also to family members and friends. Abigail entreated her husband to give women in the new country equal opportunities to be educated and to vote.
The necessity for women to be educated was one of Abigail’s most deeply held beliefs. She felt that education was not only critical for the woman herself, but would also benefit her children, whom she was responsible for teaching in their early years. Through her letters, Abigail was instrumental in beginning the dialog about women’s rights in this country and she is considered one of the country’s first feminists. Her husband became the second president of the United States; her son, John Quincy, the sixth. Abigail was born on November 22, 1744, and died in 1818.
For additional information on Abigail Smith Adams, please visit https://historyswomen.com/early-america/abigail-adams/.