On March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams sat down at her farmhouse in Braintree, Mass., to write a letter with a famous suggestion to her husband: “Remember the ladies.”
John Adams had gone to Philadelphia to represent Massachusetts in the Continental Congress.
Abigail, a 32-year-old mother of four, had experienced firsthand the events leading up to the American Revolution. She lived in Boston during the British occupation, the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre. After the latter, John Adams defended the British soldiers. She witnessed the battles of Grape Island and Bunker Hill from Braintree. She had already endured a long separation from her husband, and she would endure many more.
‘The sun looks brighter’
That evening she would write one of the best known letters of the 18th century. She began by celebrating the evacuation of British troops from Boston, which had started two weeks earlier.
I feel very differently at the approach of spring to what I did a month ago. We knew not then whether we could plant or sow with safety, whether when we had toild we could reap the fruits of our own industery, whether we could rest in our own Cottages, or whether we should not be driven from the sea coasts to seek shelter in the wilderness, but now we feel as if we might sit under our own vine and eat the good of the land.
I feel a gaieti de Coar to which before I was a stranger. I think the Sun looks brighter, the Birds sing more melodiously, and Nature puts on a more chearfull countanance. We feel a temporary peace, and the poor fugitives are returning to their deserted habitations.
Remember the Ladies
Tho we felicitate ourselves, we sympathize with those who are trembling least the Lot of Boston should be theirs. But they cannot be in similar circumstances unless pusilanimity and cowardise should take possession of them. They have time and warning given them to see the Evil and shun it. — 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 favourable 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 perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in immitation of the Supreem Being make use of that power only for our happiness.
Her husband’s reaction gets a lot less attention than Abigail’s reminder. It didn’t please her. Read about it here.
This story updated in 2022.