So I told Alden, my youngest daughter, that I was going on a short trip out of town. She quickly offered to write a column for me. Here it is, I hope you enjoy it.
The saying “behind every great man is a great woman” has been altered in various ways to make the woman’s role more equal. Some say “beside” instead of “behind”, some extend the quote by saying the woman is rolling her eyes. Today, one can see the quote gives the man more power, but that is because of the period one lives in. When the quote was written, it was empowering women by saying a man could not be successful without a woman.
The same idea applies when talking about John and Abigail Adams. Many people can recall that John Adams was the second president of the United States, but not many people can say how influential his wife, Abigail, was in his political decisions before, during, and after his presidency. Abigail, a great woman, stood behind her husband, unappreciated by many but not unrecognized today.
One of the great things Abigail is recognized for today is her letter, “Remember the Ladies”. In this letter she urged her husband to “be more generous and favorable” to the women than the generations before. Abigail, once again, stood behind her husband, as she fought to have a place beside him in the making of the new country. While this is a great feat to be recognized for hundreds of years later, Abigail’s influence extended beyond one letter.
As her husband was away doing the “man’s” job of warfare and politics, Abigail was taking over the family estates and business’ finances. This too, was considered a man’s job, but Abigail disregarded the gender roles that were placed upon her and other women during this period. Her husband was not as prone to take risks with finances as she was, and when she took over, she acquired significant amounts of land and money, all of which she put under her name, and not her husbands. The act of her owning land was not permitted, but her husband turned a blind eye to it and allowed her to take a step forward from her placement as a great woman stuck behind the shadows of him, a great man.
When Abigail felt her health declining, she rebelled one last time against the sexual hierarchy she despised her entire life. Abigail Adams wrote a will; a will that gave the majority of her properties to female relatives. This is one of the most controversial acts Abigail ever did. She was not allowed to own the property under her name in the first place, and the fact that she wrote it out to go to female relatives made it even more rebellious. This will demonstrated the very ideals Abigail was fighting for. The ideals that women would have an equal place beside the men in society, whether it be in property rights or a dying wish.
Once again, her husband ignored the gender roles that Abigail so often rebelled against, and followed the wishes of her will. This final act is ignored by many historians, but is exactly what she wanted to be remembered by. Abigail did not allow the confinements of her society to tell her what she could and could not do with what she claimed as hers. Abigail Adams, a great woman, fought her way to be beside her husband, a great man.