There is a notion that the women of colonial times were treated somewhat like children in that when in the company of important men, that they were to be “seen and not heard.” All one need do is look at the impactful lives of such ladies as Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison, to know that oftentimes nothing could be farther from the truth.
In point of fact, both Adams and Madison were well-known to have been the closest of confidantes to their husbands as well as oft-needed grounding forces for them as they ascended to the lofty heights of political life.
John Adams dearly valued his wife’s brilliant and intuitive insight on a host of issues, and James Madison, while a very cerebral man, needed to enlist his wife’s considerable charms when dealing face-to-face with diplomats and leaders. He was rather bashful and she was anything but!
Adams and Madison were wise to see the merit in a close and equitable relationship with their spouses wherein their feminine counterparts were loved, valued and treasured for their innate ability to complement their husbands’ endeavors to an almost pitch-perfect level.
But what about the ladies who were not as welcomed to voice their opinions publicly, particularly in the presence of men who were presumed to know more than they on matters of political significance? Were they still somehow able to make any valuable contributions to our country during such tumultuous times?
The answer can be found in one very important meeting that occurred in December of 1776, in the home of Isaac Arnett in Elizabethtown Province, New Jersey. The setting was indeed grim as the men gathered there set about to discuss the very real and somewhat welcomed possibility of giving up on the Patriot cause and rejoining the Loyalists in exchange for “amnesty.”
Matters in the uphill battle for independence has taken a decided turn for the worse. The Continental forces were being outflanked, out-maneuvered and just generally outdone by the polished Red Coat forces under the leadership of Cornwallis.
The Brits had bayonets, superior artillery and even had the mighty power of mercenary Hessian forces on their side while the Minutemen had mismatched “uniforms,” hunting rifles, and a lack of military training. Who could blame them for wanting to throw their hands up in surrender in order to preserve what little they had left of their lives and possessions? And that was precisely what these men were about to do…until…
Enter, the uninvited wife of Isaac Arnett, Hannah Arnett. She has just overheard their proposed declaration of what amounted to surrender in exchange for the amnesty they were desiring from the Crown. Well, Hannah was having none of that and made no bones about it. She proceeded to berate the actions of her husband and his compatriots, calling them “cowards and traitors!”
She even vowed to leave her husband if these scoundrels followed through with their cowardly plot. Very strong words from a very brave woman! And they had the desired effect; the men elected to bravely “fight another day” on behalf of the liberty they so desperately desired and so richly deserved.
Imagine: If not for the bold actions of Hannah Arnett, who knows what might have become of the Patriot cause? There are many other stories detailing the contributions made by women like Arnett, Adams and Madison that helped propel our great country forward into more peaceful, prosperous and free times.
And while they are not always recognized for their accomplishments, there’s no doubt that these remarkable ladies made a real and lasting mark on the long and winding path to freedom.