As the Founding Fathers of our country struggled both in war as well as in framing our Constitution, the ladies carried on at home despite hardships that could wear down the faint-hearted of any day or age.
A fascinating array of unforgettable women helped shape our American heritage. Their struggles from Colonial times to the present are worthy of our appreciation and continued consideration for the preservation of our American values. They can truly be thought of as the backbone of America.
One of these notable women was Abigail Adams. Abigail, the daughter of a Congregationalist minister, was born in Weymouth, Mass., on Nov. 11, 1744. Her brothers were well educated, but Abigail had no formal education, as it was considered unnecessary for girls. Strongly desiring to learn, she listened attentively to what her brothers were being taught and spent many hours reading in her father's library. Her knowledge scared off suitors but attracted a young lawyer, John Adams, who courted her for almost two years. They married Oct. 25, 1764.
John Adams was a successful lawyer and very active politically during the colonial times. In 1768 to 1772, he was active in the Massachusetts Legislature. When he served in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia from 1774-77, Abigail remained on their farm in Braintree, Mass. She not only raised and educated their five children, but managed the farm and business affairs efficiently even with the hardships and imminent danger that existed. Strong-willed, yet personable, she also wrote more than 2,000 letters that described vividly and accurately the founding of our new nation.
In a letter to her husband when the Declaration of Independence was being formulated, she wrote, "Remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors ..."
Although Abigail was very well-informed and highly respected, this advice was not heeded by John Adams nor others for more than 200 years.
Abigail accompanied her husband when he was assigned as diplomat to France between 1784 and 1785 and also when he was appointed minister to the court of St. James in London from 1785-88. Upon returning to the United States in 1788, they moved to Quincy, Mass. Abigail now spent her time managing their new home and devoting much of her time to her children and husband. During the years 1789 to 1797, when her husband was vice president to George Washington, she continued her writing and involvement in women's issues.
On March 4, 1797, John Adams was inaugurated as president of the United States in Philadelphia, which at that time was the capital. Soon the capital was moved to Washington, D.C. Abigail was now the mistress of the Executive Mansion, later to be known as the White House. She was quite inventive, as the mansion was not yet completed. In the audience rooms she strung clotheslines to dry the laundry. Her ingenuity was also required when they had formal dinners at the mansion. Only the rooms that could be heated were used for these formal occasions. The president and Abigail believed that the same dignity was required that they had experienced in France and England.
After her husband's term was completed, they returned to Quincy, where Abigail resumed the care of her home and her family. On Oct. 28, 1818, she suffered a stroke and died. Her son, John Quincy Adams, then was secretary of state, and six years later would become the sixth president of the United States. John Adams lived eight years longer than his "dearest friend" Abigail.
Many other women, too numerous to write about in this article, contributed to the formation of our country, not only during Colonial times, but yesterday, today and the days to come. We all know of these women, some in our own lives. They are truly the backbone of America.
Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.