March 31: Remember the Ladies

This Day in History

As John Adams was deliberating in Congress, a few months before the Declaration of Independence was written, Abigail Adams wrote her husband on this day in 1776 to “remember the ladies.”

Significantly ahead of her time, the beautiful and intellectual Abigail had a vision that the women in the newly-formed country would be the social equal of men. Unlike life under British rule, she dreamed of a society that gave women an equal chance in education, political power, and more options for opportunities in business.

She penned her concerns and wishes to her husband, in a playful, yet sincere manner: “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, 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 and favorable to them than you 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 and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to torment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

One of many hundreds of letters exchanged between John and Abigail

In the early agrarian days in the colonies, men and women had very traditional gender roles, however, John and Abigail had an unusual relationship for the day. She challenged him intellectually and politically by contributing her ideas into his personal and professional life. Despite her limited social power, she had a profound effect on her husband, who helped compose many of our founding documents.

Unfortunately, Abigail would not live to see her vision for America’s women. The ladies would not be forgotten, however, when 150 years after her suggestion to her husband, the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote was ratified. 

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