A message from Abigail Adams to the women of the future

Perhaps you will remember me as the wife of the second president of the newly formed United States of America. I would rather you knew me as I was, a woman who thought deeply and who acted with care. The times of my life placed many limits on the actions and engagements of women. But I believe the women of my time stretched and strained those limits to the best of our abilities.

Our times were times of greatness and of grief. They were times of hope and of desolation. They were times in which a genius would wish to live. Your era has said, ‘keep calm and carry on.’ I think that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life. Humans were made for action and for bustle too, I believe. Indeed, it is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. It formed the habits of a vigorous mind in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. All history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruit of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.

But let no person say what they would or would not do, since we are not judges for ourselves until circumstances call us to act. No one is without difficulties, whether in high or low life, and every person knows best where their own shoe pinches. Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.

I beseeched my husband and the men of my time to remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than their ancestors. I urged them to not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands; to remember, all men would be tyrants if they could; to remember that members of 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 title of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend. I cautioned them that if particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

Well, my entreaties went unheard. To you women of the future, I say, if we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would laugh at me, and accuse me of vanity, but you, I know, have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the sentiment. If much depends upon the early education of youth and if the first principals which are instilled take the deepest root, great benefit must arise from literary accomplishments in women. Even while I argue that knowledge is a fine thing, remember that while mother Eve thought so as well, she smarted so severely for hers. Most of her daughters have been afraid of it since. Women of the future, set aside that fear. Take up your books. Take up your lives of action. Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. To be good, and do good, is the whole duty of human beings, comprised in a few words. Learn each day. Each day, do your best, for your soul, for your family, for your community.

(the above is a collection of quotes from Abigail Adams, woven together and elaborated with words from my heart.)

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