Nearly 180 years ago, two great American revolutionaries and former U S Presidents lay dying in their beds. It was July 4, 1824. Fifty-years before, both men worked side-by-side to help create the foundation of a new country called the United States. But despite their intelligence and wisdom, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would spend much of their later lives hating each other. It took the pen of Abigail Adams to soften the pain and begin a dialogue with Jefferson that would eventually mend the riff between these two great men. The renewed friendship rekindled their love and respect for each other. My hero is Abigail Adams – who at a time when women’s opinions were largely discounted - used her intelligence and passion to influence the course of politics in the United States.
Abigail was the wife of John Adams, who served as the second President of the United States. She helped care for the wounded and sick as the revolutionary war waged on near her home in Braintree, Massachusetts – and as John was busy working to forge a new country with such men as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.
Abigail is sometimes called the first feminist in America. She always believed that a woman’s most important role in life was those of wife and mother. She raised four children, including John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, and cared for many members of her extended family. However, she did not think a woman needed to be limited. According to Pat McCarty, author of Abigail Adams, First Lady and Patriot, Abigail once wrote her husband John as he and other men were working to create a new government that “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion.” Abigail also was anti-slavery –- a cause that her son, John Quincy Adams, would carry with him until he died.
Although self-taught to read and write, Abigail was a gifted communicator – and a well-respected advisory to her husband. Over 2,000 of her letters have survived, and many paint a wonderful picture of her family, and her times. Her letters touched many – including one she wrote four years before her death in 1818 at the age of 74 to Thomas Jefferson. It was a condolence letter upon the death of his daughter, Martha. Jefferson and the Adams' had not spoken or written to each other in over four years. But that sincere and truthful letter led to other letters between Abigail and Jefferson – many discussed the rift between her husband and Jefferson. Eventually, the two American leaders were encouraged by others to reconcile. The wide rift was political in nature – but the memories they shared were stronger: “I look back with rapture to those golden days when Virginia and Massachusetts lived and acted together like a band of brothers,” wrote Adams to Jefferson.
So it seems fitting, that on the eve of the of the 50th anniversary of the first Independence Day in 1824, these two old Patriots passed away taking with them only fond memories – all because of Abigail Adams and the letter to Jefferson that said she cared.
Page created on 8/12/2005 12:00:00 AM
Last edited 2/11/2020 1:27:05 AM