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18th Century Women of Courage

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Laura Witt

on 21 June 2013

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Transcript of 18th Century Women of Courage

18th Century Women of Courage
Born in 1744 in Massachusetts to a prominent family, Abigail was a preacher's daughter and a curious child from the very beginning. Although she never attended formal education, her parents made sure she and her sisters got a sturdy education at home.

She became the wife to John Adams, and involved in his politics when women were to remain closed mouthed on the subject. He often confided in Abigail over political issues; seeking her opinion over his cabinet members (Foner, 2012).

Abigail was opinionated, intelligent, and confident. As a wife and mother she understood her role in the home, often taking care of the farm and finances while John was away, but she also believed that women deserved equal rights and opportunities as men and had no problem voicing that concern to political leaders. She was also opposed to slavery, and wrote about her opposition in letters to John.
Abigail Adams
Born in 1753, Phillis would become the first African American to publish a book of poetry (Christian, 1995). She was owned from the age of 7 or 8 by the Wheatley family, who purchased her from a slave boat from Africa during the time of the Seven Year War.

She was a weak and sickly child, but intelligent and gifted. The Wheatley's taught her how to read and write and allowed her to spend her time in working on those skills versus domestic work.
Phillis Wheatley
Born as Isabella Bomefree in 1797, she had many different names as it changed with her many different slave owners. Truth lived as a slave for more than 46 years (Christian, 1995). She experienced cruel treatment, which she endured and used to fuel her services to the abolitionist movement. Truth never learned to read or write, but had a way of speaking that reached multitudes.
Sojourner Truth
Speaking up for rights of the oppressed shaped the 18th century. Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, and Phillis Wheatley showed courage in trying times and used their gifts in speaking & writing to influence a nation.
Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Letter from Abigail to John that represented her feelings on independence for women states:

"I long to hear that you have declared an independency -- and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

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 title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend."
Portrait of Abigail Adams (1744-1818), wife of President John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams. Retrieved from http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/rights-managed/BE060692/portrait-of-abigail-adams-after-a-painting?popup=1
Quotes from Abigail from letters written to John:

While John was in France he wrote to Abigail regarding the educated French women, "I admire the ladies here..." (Roberts, 2004) and Abigail, even after being away from her husband for several months, responded with "I can hear of the brilliant accomplishment of any of my sex with pleasure... At the same time I regret the trifling narrow contracted education of the females of my own country." (Roberts, 2004).

September, 1774 Abigail wrote this in a letter to John regarding slavery:

"I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province. It alawys appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me -- fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upond this subject." (Roberts, 2004).
Obituary notice. Died at Quincy, the 28th October, 1818, Mrs. Abigail Adams, consort of the Hon. John Adams late president of the United States. Retrieved from http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/rbpebib:@field%28NUMBER+@band%28rbpe+0520050a%29%29
"Connected in early life, by affection and intellectual sympathy, with one of the most eminent men of our age and country, and one among those, chiefly, instrumental, in achieving national Independence, she largely partook of the spirit of the times, and cheerfully braved the dangers… The leading patriots of that period well knew her intellectual worth. “
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects. [Illustration] Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2h7.html
Revue de Colonies (1834-1842). [Image of Phillis Wheatley]. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Retrieved from http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchresult.cfm?keyword=Revue+des+Colonies
Her book, "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral", was published by a British publisher after her several failed attempts at getting it published in America. Wheatley was only 20 years old when the book was published. The poems cover many topics, but one of the most popular, titled "To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth" discusses her being kidnapped as a child and her feelings toward freedom. She also denounced tyranny and insisted on freedom. Never wanting to return to Africa, Wheatley fought to be known as a legitimate contributor to colonial society. (Bennett, 1998)

An enslaved African by the name of Scipio Moorhead, whose owner was a neighbor and friend of the Wheatley's was commissioned to draw Phillis for the cover of her book. (PBS, 2012)
Wheatley traveled to London to get support for her book. She died in poverty at the young age of 31; before she was able to get enough backing to publish a second book (Christian, 1995).
"Ain't I a Woman" [YouTube video clip]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXjN2TK1qoQ
Sojourner Truth spoke at a Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851. This speech became one of her most well known acts towards women's rights and abolition of slavery.
Sojourner is known for speaking on religion, slavery, prison reform, temperance, and women's suffrage. When her slave owners refused to release her in 1827, she ran away and changed her name to what we know her as "Sojourner Truth"
Sojourner Truth. [digital file] Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/98501244/
A. Lincoln showing Sojourner Truth the Bible presented by colored people of Baltimore, Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., Oct. 29, 1864 [Painting]. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96522312/
Suggested Reading
Christian, C.M. (1995). Black saga: The African American experience. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Foner, E. (2005). Forever free. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf.

Franke, A. (2004). Phillis wheatley, melancholy muse. The New England Quarterly, 77(2), 224- 251. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215290914?accountid=38569

Rae, N. (1996). Witnessing America. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Roberts, C. (2004). Founding mothers: The women who raised our nation. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
18th Century Women of Courage

Laura Witt

HST 201: U.S. History

Colorado State University Global Campus

Dr. Jahue Anderson

June 21, 2013
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