Abigail Smith Adams: Contribution to Literary Writing

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      Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818) Wife of John Adams, second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Married in 1764, she bore four children who survived to adulthood: Abigail (b. 1765), John Quincy (b. 1767, US president 1825—1829), Charles (b. 1770) and Thomas (b. 1772). Consistent with the cultural norms of her era, Adams regarded writing for a public audience as inappropriate for a woman; her considerable private correspondence, however, much of which was addressed to her husband during the long separations occasioned by his responsibilities as a statesman, offers a unique insider's view of the events that led to the establishment of the new nation and is commonly regarded by historians as the most thorough accounting of the Revolutionary period available from a woman's perspective.

      Her most celebrated letter was written to her husband in 1776 after she learned he would take part in crafting the Declaration of Independence. She points out the problematic paradox of the Southern congressional delegates' simultaneous advocacy of liberty and defense of slavery and then writes. In the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies... Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If. . . 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. The letter's humorous tone and sophisticated consideration of political issues suggest the egalitarian nature of the couple's relationship. Adams's letters to her husband, along with her voluminous correspondence with friends and family; provide an early look at an American women's literary tradition that links gender equity with the national political morality.

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