What does the debate between Abigail and John tell us about the history of American women?
Thesis: American Women’s history tells us that women were subject to oppression and a played subordinate role in the confines of a house, however, as gradually time changed and women were able to get education their roles gradually changed to entrepreneurs, politicians and law makers.
Women’s history in America dates back to 17th century. Different authors have thrown light on this subject with different aspects thus bringing awareness among people how women played their role in past and how their role have gradually changed with time.
As Sara Evans’1 “Born for Liberty” tells us the history of women and how they have affected men’s politics. In earlier days their role was subordinate to men. According to Hine, black women were slaves, home-makers, and child bearers. In addition they also played major role in settling western towns, in serving army during war, supporting community, and keeping long families and to survive their race. Though white women also worked in men dominated society while playing their basic role of house-keeping, they were much more advanced and had power as compared to black women.
“Women’s rights crusaders envisioned a “maternal commonwealth” as an alternative to the male-dominated public world, which they argued was increasingly brutal and corrupt. Similarly, labor organizers called for a “cooperative commonwealth” where small producers and cooperative enterprise would replace the new trusts and corporations”1
Hine’s2 “A shining thread of hope” writes about the important role black women played in American history. Though they had struggle hard to improve their role in society but they kept on striving and today we can find many black women entrepreneurs. At first they were oppressed, worked in farms for long hours, worked in military, served as slaves, subjected to rape by their masters, they survived through poverty and had to tackle the violence.
However, some men were of the view that women should stay at home in order to take care of home and bringing up of future children. Because attention and caring for children is the major role women had to play. These same children will become future youth of our society. As opposed to this some men thought that they should have role in politics so that to guard the rights of their own sex.
The debate between Abigail3 and John Adams3 highlights some of the same facts in history of American women.
In 18th century they had no role in political sphere and Law did not hold any protection for women to voice their rights. Abigail stressed John Adam to have amendments in Law and rights of women must be protected otherwise if all power goes into men’s hand then there will be lawlessness as women will be the subject of their tyranny.
“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 tide of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend.” (Abigail to John 31 march-5 April 1776)3
If Law will not give them any protection then men will have right to oppress women to whatever extent they want. Abigail makes clear that women must be granted with enough rights that they should not be treated as slaves but they should have their own identity.
”Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the (servants) of your sex; regard us then as being placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.” (Abigail to John 31 march-5 April 1776)3
John Adams reply to Abigail showed that he was very non-serious about what Abigail said. He thinks that women have nothing to do in politics and law as they are already struggling through difficult situations and bringing women in between will only make the situation worse. He makes point that women’s major role is in house in order to give good attention to children and make them responsible citizens of the society.
“As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh.We have been told that our struggle has loosened the bonds of government everywhere; that children and apprentices were disobedient; that schools and colleges were grown turbulent;” (John Adam to Abigail (14 April 1776)3
Sara Evan’s “Born for liberty”
Hine’s A Shinning Thread Of Hope
Document – Letter from Abigail to John Adams (31 march-5 April 1776) and Letter from John Adam to Abigail (14 April 1776)