Born on November 11, 1744, Abigail Smith entered the world in the Massachusetts colony during troublesome time of England rule that was destined to end one day.1 Her family was well respected in the town of Weymouth, where she was born. Her father, William Smith, was a Congregational minister and her mother, Elizabeth Quincy, hailed from a prominent family in the colony.2 Abigail spent her time at her grandmother’s house where she was schooled in English, French, and history, meanwhile, gaining a well-rounded education from the many hours she spent in her father’s library. Her mother’s father, John Quincy, was a member of the colonial Governor’s council and colonel of the militia. He was also the Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly, a post he held for 40 years until her death at age 77.3 His interest in government and his career in public service influenced her greatly, her grandfather died three years into her marriage to John Adams.
Married at the age of 22, Abigail and her new husband, John Adams, settled on a farm in Braintree, Massachusetts. John Adams was a recent graduate from Harvard and was eager to start his career in law. Despite the differences in their formal education, their marriage was a partnership of equal minds. With his growing interest in politics, he became a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress in 1774; this governing body of the colonies met regularly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With her husband’s new political responsibilities, Abigail was frequently alone on the farm to raise and educate their five children in addition to the management of all the business affairs on the farm.
Between the years of 1774 - 1784, Adams and her husband were separated more frequently and communicated mainly through detailed letters. The letters reflected not only Abigail Adams’ reactive advice to the political contentions and questions that John posed to her, but also the descriptions of life during the Revolutionary War and early nationhood keeping her husband grounded in the reality of northerners’ experiences.
As the colonial fight for independence from the mother country started, Abigail Adams was appointed by the Massachusetts Colony General Court in 1775, along with Mercy Warren and the governor’s wife, Hanna Winthrop, to question their fellow Massachusetts women, who were charged by their word or action, of remaining loyal to the British crown and working against the independence movement. “...you are now a politician and now elected into an important office, that of judges of Tory ladies, which will give you, naturally, an influence with your sex”, her husband wrote her in response to the appointment.4 This was the first time for a First Lady to hold a quasi-official government position.
Mrs. Adams wrote almost daily letters in which she actively questioned the status of women in the fledgling United Stated. During this time in the 18th century, women received little formal education. According to the...