Abigail Adams was probably the first person in America to argue that women and men should have equal rights. She was a native of Massachusetts, well-educated and liberal in religion. In 1776, Adams asked her husband John, a member of the Continental Congress, to "remember the ladies" as he and his colleagues debated the future of the new nation. They and their friends discussed women's rights at length over the next three years. Did they find common ground?
The following letters are from Charles Francis Adams, Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams, During the Revolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1875); and Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1854).
Abigail Adams to Issac Smith, Jr.
Braintree April the 20 1771
I write you, not from the Noisy Buisy Town, but from my humble Cottage in Braintree, where I arrived last Saturday and here again am to take up my abode.
"Where Contemplation p[l]umes her rufled Wings And the free Soul look's down to pitty Kings."
Suffer me to snatch you a few moments from all the Hurry and tumult of London and in immagination place you by me that I may ask you ten thousand Questions, and bear with me Sir, tis the only recompence you can make for the loss of your Company.
From my Infancy I have always felt a great inclination to visit the Mother Country as tis call'd and had nature formed me of the other Sex, I should certainly have been a rover. And altho this desire has greatly diminished owing partly I believe to maturer years, but more to the unnatural treatment which this our poor America has received from her, I yet retain a curiosity to know what ever is valuable in her. I thank you Sir for the particular account you have already favourd me with, but you always took pleasure in being communicatively good.
Women you know Sir are considerd as Domestick Beings, and altho they inherit an Eaquel...