From 1744 to 1818.
How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking.
In the precarious time of the American Revolution, members of the Continental Congress left their wives and children in order to establish a new American country. During this time John and Abigail Adams begin writing letters to each other that by the end of their lives totaled more than 1,100. Abigail served as a confidante and advisor to the first vice president and second president of the United States.
Abigail was born in colonial Massachusetts in 1744 to a Congregationalist minister and his wife. Adams was never able to receive a formal education due to her poor health, however, she became self-educated by reading Shakespeare and John Milton while at home. Using this knowledge, she became known as one of the greatest letter writers of her time. During their long separations, Abigail used her letters to John to advocate for the equal protection under law for all people. Abigail wrote to John telling him, "I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature; and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and, like the grave, cries, 'Give, give!'" She added in her letter to her husband in 1775, "You tell me of degrees of perfection to which human nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances." Knowing that power can corrupt, Abigail believed that individuals should not be left in power for too long due to the temptation of avarice and falling into scandal.
During a time when women did not have large roles in politics, Abigail was appointed to the Massachusetts Colony General Court in 1775. Adams was the first First Lady to ever hold a political position in the newly formed country. She also handled many of the investments for the family and her competency of markets and land value increased the financial security and wealth of her family. While John was away, she managed the family farm at Braintree, where it was profitable under her guidance.
As a minister's daughter, Abigail grew up in a devoutly religious family and she stayed close to her faith throughout her life. Frequently, she would reference God in her letters to various political individuals in America encouraging them to put their faith in the Lord. She stated in one letter to John, "The God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Trust in him at all times ye people pour out your hearts before him. God is refuge for us."
Abigail Adams served as a defining woman of not only her generation, but of all the generations to come after her. She displayed a new understanding of the role of women in American politics and served as one of the most influential woman ever as the wife of one president and the mother of another. Throughout her life, she advocated for greater education for women. She was a voice for the abolition of slavery noting, "I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs."
After the publication of her letters in 1848, she is the first wife of a president to have a book published. In a letter to her son John Quincy Adams, Abigail wrote, "The only sure and permanent foundation of virtue is religion. Let this important truth be engraven upon your heart."
Hero of Liberty image attribution: Gilbert Stuart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons