Abigal Adams

What is the 19th Amendment to the Constitution? Voting rights for women. When did it become effective? August, 1920. Do you have any idea who was the first woman in the United States to proclaim equal rights for women? She was a member of a prominent Massachusetts family. Can you name her? Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, Vice President under Washington and the second President of the United States.
A descendant, Charles Francis Adams, has published a number of letters written by Abigail to her husband, John, who evidently didn’t stay home much. He was always attending to Revolutionary War matters and serving as a delegate to the lengthy Continental Congresses and Constitutional Conventions, while Abigail stayed home at Quincy, Massachusetts and managed their farm and other property.
On March 31, 1776, Abigail wrote John who was attending the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. She urged him to redouble his efforts to have the Congress declare their independence from England, and then she went on to say:
“In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care 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.”
These were strong words coming from a strong woman written more than 200 years ago. John Adams, however, did not take his wife’s suggestions very seriously for he answered her letter several weeks later and rather facetiously wrote: “As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our struggle for independence has loosened the bonds of government everywhere; that children were disobedient, that schools and colleges are grown turbulent, that Indians slight their guardians, and slaves grow insolent to their masters….But your letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than the rest were grown discontented….Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems, although you know they are little more than theory. We only have the name of masters. For in practice, you know we are the subjects. And rather than give up our titles of master and be subject to petticoat rule, I hope General Washington and all our brave soldiers would fight to the last man.”
Abigail had the last word. She answered his letter with this warning. “It seems ungenerous to proclaim peace and good will to all men, but at the same time retaining absolute power over women.” She also reminded him that arbitrary power, like all hard things, can be broken. “Not withstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves but subdue our masters.”
Abigail lived before her time, but other women took up the long hard struggle to secure for women the equality and justice they feel they so justly deserve and the fight still goes on. Wyoming, a western territory, granted women the right to vote back in 1869, but it took another 56 years before these rights were formally a part of our Constitution in the 19th Amendment

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