“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 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 and attention 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.”
Abigail Adams wrote these words to her husband, John Adams, on March 31, 1776, nearly 150 years before the House of Representatives voted to pass the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Her words urged him and the other members of the Continental Congress to consider the rights of women while laying the framework for the new, independent nation.
Abigail Adams was an advocate for greater political rights for women, especially in regards to divorce and property ownership. While her husband didn’t heed her advice then, he did consider her his better half. The two exchanged countless letters discussing everyday life and his political work, although wrote John, “as to what passes in Congress I am tied fast by my honour to communicate nothing.”
The two were married for 54 years, and their marriage was one of mutual respect and affection. Adams died in 1818, eight years before her husband. Her obituary read, “Possessing, at every period of life, the unlimited confidence, as well as affection of her husband, she was admitted, at all times, to share largely of his thoughts. … she was a friend, whom it was his delight to consult in every perplexity of public affairs; and whose councils never failed to partake of that happy harmony, which prevailed in her character; in which intuitive judgment was blended with consummate prudence; the spirit of conciliation, with the spirit of her station, and the refinement of her sex. In the storm, as well as on the smooth sea of life, her virtues were ever the object of his trust and veneration.”
The Library’s collections contain a wide variety of resources related to John and Abigail Adams and his contributions to the nation. This resource guide compiles links to digital materials related such as manuscripts, letters, broadsides, government documents and images that are available throughout the Library of Congress website.
In addition, the Library is home to the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection along with the papers of suffrage movement leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt. Even more resources can be found on the Library’s Women’s History Month web portal.