Presentation Title

Abigail Adams and the Power of Correspondence: Exploring Women's Role During the American Revolution

Faculty Mentor

Andree Leighton

Start Date

18-11-2017 9:15 AM

End Date

18-11-2017 9:30 AM

Location

15-1814

Session

Social Science 4

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

The conventional historical narrative about the American Revolution overlooks the significant roles that women played throughout the revolutionary era. This research explores how Abigail Adams used correspondence to influence revolutionary politics and the emerging culture for the new American republic. The research is based on an examination of primary and secondary materials, including letters Adams wrote to John Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, and Catherine Macaulay. Secondary materials included analyses of the role of correspondence in eighteenth-century life and biographical materials. The analysis argues that Abigail Adams is better understood as a political writer – a designation that goes beyond how she is typically presented in scholarly and popular literature. Adams was a passionate patriot, praising the inherent freedom of humanity, and an early advocate for civil rights and social welfare. Adams argued against the limits placed on women and boldly expressed these views through correspondence. While she may not have seen herself as an agent of social change, Adams can be viewed as a privileged person of her time who used her ties with key political actors and writers to promote revolutionary ideas. Her correspondence was integral to this communication of ideas. This research aims to contribute to a change in public pedagogy about the roles of women and how their actions contribute to political causes, going beyond the traditional male-oriented narrative to more accurately represent how social change happens.

Keywords: Abigail Adams, American Revolution, correspondence, Eighteenth Century, patriot, women, politics

Summary of research results to be presented

Abigail Adams shared her opinions and spoke freely through the medium of letter-writing because of its accessibility, and this consistent correspondence was essential to challenging current social norms with discussions of human rights and political events. Through her correspondence with influential figures, she communicated her progressive views regarding equality and freedom. Adams acknowledged the integral role women play in society, as primary caretakers and childrearers, and how it suffers as a result of a denial of education for women. She observes the importance of the individual in society. Women should be treated with respect and be allowed to grow. Abigail based her views on the inherent freedom all should receive. She notes the male dominance in society, and the restrictions placed on women and other minorities. Not only do men restrict them to the home, but they are also a danger to these women outside of the home. They cannot travel freely and not alone because of the risk of men and her advocacy for equal rights leads in protections against men. She questions the intentions of those that deny liberty to others. As the framers of the new government were aiming for a system for “all,” they denied many these fundamental rights, so she related to the restrictions placed on the slaves through the view of a restricted woman. Influence from female writers was integral to Abigail sharing her opinions boldly as she admired their ability to write confidently and to express their views on politics and women.

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Nov 18th, 9:15 AM Nov 18th, 9:30 AM

Abigail Adams and the Power of Correspondence: Exploring Women's Role During the American Revolution

15-1814

The conventional historical narrative about the American Revolution overlooks the significant roles that women played throughout the revolutionary era. This research explores how Abigail Adams used correspondence to influence revolutionary politics and the emerging culture for the new American republic. The research is based on an examination of primary and secondary materials, including letters Adams wrote to John Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, and Catherine Macaulay. Secondary materials included analyses of the role of correspondence in eighteenth-century life and biographical materials. The analysis argues that Abigail Adams is better understood as a political writer – a designation that goes beyond how she is typically presented in scholarly and popular literature. Adams was a passionate patriot, praising the inherent freedom of humanity, and an early advocate for civil rights and social welfare. Adams argued against the limits placed on women and boldly expressed these views through correspondence. While she may not have seen herself as an agent of social change, Adams can be viewed as a privileged person of her time who used her ties with key political actors and writers to promote revolutionary ideas. Her correspondence was integral to this communication of ideas. This research aims to contribute to a change in public pedagogy about the roles of women and how their actions contribute to political causes, going beyond the traditional male-oriented narrative to more accurately represent how social change happens.

Keywords: Abigail Adams, American Revolution, correspondence, Eighteenth Century, patriot, women, politics