They say that behind every great man is a great woman.
This is no more evident than in the life of Abigail Adams, wife of the second president of the United States, and vocal civil rights thought leader. Here we’re going to explore ten reasons Abigail Adams is among the greatest girl power icons of all time.
Abigail Adams Facts which Shows that She Is One Of The Strongest Women In U.S. History
1. She married one president, and raised another.
Abigail Smith married John Adams in October 1764, when he was still a struggling country lawyer. Clearly ahead of his times, Adams chose a woman who was outspoken, intelligent, and opinionated, and the couple’s strong and happy marriage is well documented (as we’ll see later). Together they had six children, although one was stillborn in 1777.
Their second son was John Quincy Adams, who would go on to become the eighth president of the United States in 1817. This is a crazy fact about Abigail Adams, which she raised one President and married another. Often left to run the family farm and raise the children alone once her husband began his political career, Abigail Adams proved herself as self-reliant and independent. Her parenting style is reported to have been strict, and to have a strong focus on tradition and service.
2. She was the first first lady to live at the White House.
Before the White House was built, John Adams lived at the President’s House on Market Street in Philadelphia. George Washington lived there previously.
The Adams’s relocated their family to the White House in November of 1800, despite the building and renovations not being completed. Abigail is reported to have told a friend that the mansion had no insulation, and she was embarrassed that guests at her first official White House Christmas party were cold.
3. She once tutored a young African American servant.
One of the most popular anecdotes about the life of this first lady shows her forward-thinking attitude towards integration and equality. According to legend, she told her husband—who had not yet been sworn in—that she was giving private tuition to a young African American boy in their employ. Having discussed it with the president-elect, she enrolled the young boy in school.
Shortly after he began his schooling, Mrs. Adams was confronted by a school parent, complaining about the African American child’s presence. She is said to have argued in the boy’s defense, citing that he should not be denied instructions ‘merely because his face is black.’ Historians claim Adams became quite angry, and the complainant is said to have dropped the issue and retreated. The fact that Abigail Adams was for this African American’s education is amazing.
4. Her relationship with Thomas Jefferson was complicated.
Jefferson and president Adams met in Paris in 1784, in their earlier days as diplomats. Mrs. Adams, who had been separated from her husband for months at this point, booked passage on a transatlantic crossing to visit him.
Mrs. Adams and Jefferson discovered a mutual love of gardening, and remained pen pals for over 15 years. The two often exchanged gifts and gossip, and Jefferson is credit as calling Abigail Adams ‘one of the most estimable characters on earth.’
Historical records don’t show us exactly what went wrong in their relationship. Some experts put it down to Jefferson beating out Adams in the 1800 election. We can’t say for sure, although a letter received from Adams following the death of Jefferson’s daughter is signed ‘of her who once took pleasure in subscribing herself your friend.’
Whatever the issue, it appears to have resolved itself sometime around 1811. At that time, Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson were writing to each other regularly.
5. She wasn’t there when President Adams was sworn in.
On the day of John Adams inauguration, his wife was caring for his mother in Massachusetts. Letters document their discussion at the time, with the soon-to-be president writing, “I must have you here to assist me.”
6. Abigail Adams was homeschooled—like most girls of the time.
Although Abigail was a voracious reader, and enjoyed correspondence, she had difficulty with spelling. In later letters, she apologizes for her shortcoming, despite these being the early days of spelling standardization. The fact that she had difficulty with spelling is a shocking fact about Abigail Adams.
7. The first lady was part of the war effort during the Revolution.
The Battle of Bunker Hill—which took place in Charlestown, Massachusetts—claimed over a hundred U.S. soldier’s lives. One of these soldiers was their family doctor. Throughout the Revolution, Abigail and her family offered refuge to patriot troops and refugees. Documents show that she was so irate over the atrocities she and her young son witnessed, she melted down her pewter ornaments and utensils to make bullets.
8. Abigail was a wonderful pen pal.
Throughout their marriage, Abigail and John Adams wrote over 1,100 letters to each other. This was in part due to John’s diplomatic duties and the long stretches of time where the two were apart, but it also speaks to their devotion to each other. Many of the letters have a romantic undertone, and the former president addresses her by many pet names. ‘Miss Adorable’ was a favorite.
9. Abigail Adams was a vocal advocate of women’s rights.
Not only did she argue for the right for women to have more rights in marriage and property ownership, but she also spoke out in support of women’s education.
In a letter written to her husband in 1176, Abigail writes ‘Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.’ The fact that she advised her husband to advocate women’s rights is an interesting fact about Abigail Adams.
10. Mrs. Adams was passionately opposed to slavery.
In one of her more public outbursts, the first lady criticized American rebels for owning slaves, calling them hypocrites and questioning their commitment to freedom. She said, “I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for liberty cannot be eaqually [sic] strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs.”
Abigail Adams is a great example of a strong, free-thinking woman who was not ashamed to share her ideas and opinions with the leader of the free world. Up until she died of Typhoid Fever in 1818, she fought for the ideals she valued and balanced her role in the family with her own passions and interests with grace.
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