Role Models: Abigail Adams - kick ass business woman, kick ass wife
I have always searched out role models throughout my life but to be honest, for most of it strong women were not in the media, at least not outside of fiction. And even then, there were some oddities. Princess Leia was charming, feisty and totally down to scrap but Return of the Jedi also had her risk the Rebellion to say her boyfriend and blow up all the other Jabba sex slaves. Not exactly cool.
GI Joe (the cartoon) had Scarlett and Lady Jay and yes, it influenced my obsession with Archery but even still they had to be rescued a lot and were not always in the combat to the level the boys were. Now in the comics, that is a different story. Oh Scarlett, you hard core bad ass woman you.
There was Wonder Woman but once again, tv paled in comparison to the comic and even the comic had some serious bouncing around as people took issue with how strong she was.
And Jem. Can we take a moment to appreciate Jem? The chick took in orphans, started a rock band, ran a mutli-million dollar company she inherited from her father after he died suddenly and juggled two boyfriends all while having a AI bestie who would always had her back. The 80s cartoons were insane.
But this left a hole because when I try and think about strong women when I was little, besides the women in my actual life, I just didn’t see many. Even when they were career women with no nonsense attitudes they still ended up chasing after a guy and often in action flicks were there to scream and get rescued (looking at you Lois Lane and Vicki Vale).
But history has some hidden gems. And I had stumbled across a biography of Abigail Adams while doing a report on John Adams, her husband, and the second president of the United States. And holy crap, this woman was awesome.
Born way back in November of 1744 in Massachusetts to a minister, the chick devoured books. She loved Shakespeare and Milton and though did not get a formal education (as was the time) found her education through reading. She met John in 1762 at 17 and they married 3 years later. They had six kids, one a stillbirth and one died as a toddler.
John was a lawyer and was away from home A LOT. So she raised the kids pretty much on her own. And ran the farm and business. She was good at math and had a great business sense keeping the house in good standing while John was away first due to work and then due to the Revolution. During that time they exchanged over 1100 letters. In them she would counsel him on what to do and never really held back. Many refer to her as John’s secret adviser. After the war she joined him in France and helped in building the diplomatic ties that the new country desperately needed. They didn’t always see eye to eye, such as how John handled the XYZ affair with France during his presidency (France in the middle of their own revolution tried to extort money from the US that led to all sorts of issues) were he wanted a peaceful resolution and she felt that war should have been declared, she ALWAYS had his back.
Even after John retired and they moved back to the farm, she ran it. John knew she was good at it and though he was often credited at the time with being able to be successful in business and politics, the letters very clearly show Abigail was handling the business and would often edit his speeches.
As a girl who never really liked the spotlight and continued that way even now, this really range true to me. She was a Beyonce for her hubby, upgrading him on every level, and she didn’t want the recognition. She did it because she loved him, yes, but more importantly, respected him. She saw in him a good man with good morals and virtues and wanted to help him become what he wanted to be. Even when she didn’t always agree with choices or even his goals. But that was the thing, she didn’t want him to be who SHE thought he could be, she wanted him to become who HE wanted to be. Huge influence on how I treat relationships, both friends and romantic.
Also, spelling wasn’t her strong suite. Boy can I relate to that.
One story though really hit me while reading another biography about her many years later. Shortly before Adams would take the Presidental Oath, something Abigail missed by the way, there was a former slave child in the village and she started to tutor him. When she felt he was ready, she enrolled him the local school. That did not sit well with the other children’s families and they stopped sending their children to school. So she went to EACH AND EVERY one of the families and to check on the children because of course they wouldn’t miss school unless they were sick. One of the neighbor’s complained about a black child being in the school and she angrily replied that the boy was “as much a Freeman as any of the [other] young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? … I have not thought it any disgrace to my self to take him into my parlor and teach him to both read and write.”
Needless to say the kids all went back to school.
She firmly believed in freedom for all people, regardless of race, religion and gender. Many of her letters have requests to John to try and work these into things like the Constitution. Honestly, bad ass is an understatement.
Which is why to this day I adore her. Centuries before I was born she was more influential and kick-ass than so many of the women I saw on tv and in the movies. And she did because she could and she did it because she fell in love with a man who she truly saw as noble and wanted him to be the best he could be. Now stop and think about that for a moment. They were one of the US’s first power couples. They had a truly amazing marriage based on both love and respect. They worked within the social norms but never let it define who they were to each other. And both stood up for what they believed in without compromising their relationship. Why is there not books about this woman all over the place?
If you have the opportunity to read up on her, please do. She should be someone everyone aspires to be like. Kind but fierce. We need a lot more of that in this world. We need more Abigails.