Abigail Adams (1744–1818) and John Adams (1735–1826)
From Abigail Adams: Letters and John Adams: Revolutionary Writings 1775–1783
“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.”
It’s one of the most extraordinary exchange of letters in early American history: Abigail Adams writing to her husband and urging him to remember the rights of women when drafting the laws of the new nation, and John Adams joking dismissively about the “Tribe more numerous and powerfull than all the rest” and “the Despotism of the Peticoat”—and both of them calling each other “saucy.” To be sure, Abigail’s petition was not for political equality but rather for legal protections for women, but she was (to say the least) disappointed by John’s apathy—and wrote to her friend Mercy Otis Warren in complaint.
Our Story of the Week selection presents this exchange—which is only a hint of the vigor, humor, and (above all) mutual adoration you would find reading through all the correspondence from their 54-year marriage.