Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818) was the daughter of a Massachusetts minister. Educated at home, her early love of reading and an intellectual life led her to a lifelong political partnership with husband John Adams, whom she married in 1764. This political partnership continued throughout his presidency, causing his enemies to call her "Mrs. President," a derisive term implying that she had far too much influence over his political opinions. Her relationship with the president established the First Lady's role as political partner.Abigail Adams wrote hundreds of letters to her husband, family, and friends, freely expressing her political views and leaving us a rich legacy of details about everyday life in the era of the Revolution and the early Republic.
Abigail Adams: "Remember the Ladies!"
Abigail Adams began the tradition of First Lady as Political Partner. She was well read and shared her husband's intense interest in politics. She always deplored her own lack of formal education, indeed the lack of education for women in general. She advised John Adams on an array of subjects. In one of her most famous letters to her husband, written in 1776, she writes:
"I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors... Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar [sic] care and attention is not paid to the Laidies [sic] we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no representation."
Abigail proved to be indispensable to John Adams while he was away from home serving in Congress or on a diplomatic mission. She would write him letters, updating him on the political situation at home so he could pick up where he left off when he returned. Abigail Adams realized how valuable she was to her husband and once said:
"No man ever prospered in this world without the consent and cooperation of his wife."
Abigail Adams was glad to leave the spotlight as First Lady when John Adams lost the presidential election to Thomas Jefferson. However, as she wrote, she did have one regret:
"I can truly from my heart say that the most mortifying circumstances attendant upon my retirement from public Life is, that my power of doing good to my fellow creatures is curtailed and diminished, but tho' the means is wanting, the will and wish remain."
"Abigail Adams," From a Letter to a Friend
"Abigail Adams” From a Letter to a Friend
From "…But the Women Rose…: Voices of Women in American History"
Compiled by Susan Kempler and Doreen Rappaport
© Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW CD F-5538
In 1776, Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, wrote a letter to a friend in which she described her husband’s response to her suggestion that the Constitutional Congress devise a new, fair code of laws to rectify the intolerable legal position of the American women.
" I requested that our legislators would consider our case and as all men of delicacy and sentiment are averse to exercising the power they possess, yet as there is a natural propensity in human nature to domination I thought that the most generous plan was to put it out of the power of the arbitrary and tyranick to injure us with impunity by establishing some laws in our favour upon just and liberal principals.... "
"Adams and Liberty" John Adams campaign song
"Adams and Liberty" from the recording entitled Presidential Campaign Songs 1789-1996, Folkways 45051, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. © 1999. Used by permission.
Words by Robert Treat Pain Jr.; Melody: "To Anacreon in Heaven, " ["Star Spangled Banner"]; arranged by Oscar Brand/TRO-Hollis Music, Inc., BMI
Robert Treat Paine wrote several pro-Adams songs. This one was reportedly written for the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society, which paid $750.00 for the song, certainly rivaling the cost of a television spot in today’s dollars.
"...Let feign to the world
Sound America’s voice
No intrigue can her sons
From the government sever
For her pride is John Adams
His laws are her choice
And she’ll flourish till Liberty