Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution

This little biography, written by Natalie S. Bober and published in 1998, is well-done. Abigail was addicted to letter-writing, and many of these letters still exist. Bober interweaves the narrative with excerpts from thousands of letters. Yes, Amy, I do think this one has the potential to be a classic… at least among biographies for young readers.

There’s a ton in here worth mentioning, so I’ll satisfy myself only with pointing out a few things which surprised me.

1) Abigail and John were sometimes separated for years at a time. Abigail coped by writing letters. I could see myself doing the same. She sacrificed so much of her own happiness for the good of the country she loved. 

2) Interesting–in those days, extended family really helped raise children in trying situations. Abigail sometimes had to have her kids live with her sister for a few years (for instance, when she went to accompany John to Europe for a few years). Sometimes Abigail raised nieces and nephews, when their parents were too ill, or when a teenage child was being a brat and “needed a new mother” while the real mom took a break. Sometimes she was raising her grandchildren when other grandchildren needed more focus from the parents, or during parental marital  difficulties.

3) Abigail was my kind of feminist. She defended women’s needs for education and showed that women were capable of holding their own in business and politics, but all the while she stoutly affirmed that her most honored responsibility was to her family. To Abigail, saying a woman’s place is in the home is not a prison sentence… it’s more like Spider-Man’s uncle warning that “with great power comes great responsibility”. A mother MUST be educated, because in her hands lie the foundations of her children’s educations–and thus the fate of the world lies in the mother’s hands.

4) Americans really discovered coffee after they dumped the English tea into the Boston Harbor, and had to boycott it. Again, Abigail points out that the revolution could not have happened without the support of the American women. Once America began boycotting British goods, it was the women who had to come up with ways to run their households without British imports. They started to weave their own cloth, make gear own pins, etc.

So yes, great little book. Now I’m motivated to read more about her! 

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