Lesson 5: Remember the Ladies
While Abigail Adams never expressed a desire to enter politics herself, she did have strong views on the matter and not only had lengthy correspondence with her husband about the revolutionary cause and the new government, but also entertained and maintained relationships with several critical leaders of the time such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. While women were denied political rights in this time period, some women, like Abigail Adams, did share their ideas with those who had the power to create political change, and most women had influence over the men in their lives. The women negotiated household responsibilities and shared their ideas with their husbands, and they also educated their sons to become thoughtful and responsible citizens. So while women may have been denied formal political power, they still had some influence over public affairs through their relationships with men.
Ideas about men's and women's roles have changed a great deal since the time of the revolution. Today, women vote, hold political office, and work outside the home while many men take a more active role in domestic activities like cooking, housekeeping, and childcare. As an adult, what kinds of roles do you want to play in your own family and community? What kind of division of labor do you think you will have in your own adult household? What do you think would be most fair?
Questions to Discuss
- After Abigail Adams's mother died, she hoped that her own daughter, Nabby, would remember the influence of her grandmother in her life well into adulthood. What lessons have you learned from your grandparents or other elders in your family?
- How can readers be sure that an author is using a primary source thoughtfully? (In order to have a clear sense of the appropriateness of the use of a source, readers need to go to the primary source themselves. Your child may have discovered this in today's Activity 1. Emphasize with your child that nonfiction books are written about true events and are factually based, but they are still written by human beings who may have particular interests, agendas, or biases that will lead them to interpret evidence in different ways. An author interested in women's roles in society may read a letter very differently from an author whose primary interest is in colonial era medicine or in the political ideas of John Adams, for example.)
- Did Abigail Adams advocate that women and men to be treated exactly the same in society? (No. She wanted women to have access to legal protections and rights that would protect them from abusive husbands and suggested that women shouldn't have to follow laws in which they had no part in approving, but she did not suggest that women and men should have identical political or economic roles. She still viewed marriage and motherhood as women's primary roles, and the private sphere of home and family -- not the public sphere of work and politics -- as the most suitable place for them to contribute to society.)
Things to Review
- Review your child's responses to the questions about the day's reading.
- Review your child's response to the letters between Abigail and John Adams in Activity 1.
- Review your child's activity page about women's roles from Activity 2.