Abigail Adams (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: An early proponent of humane treatment and equal education for women, Abigail Adams wrote eloquent, insightful letters which provide a detailed social history of her era and her life with John Adams.
Abigail Smith was one of four children born to William Smith, minister of North Parish Congregational Church of Weymouth, and Elizabeth Quincy from nearby Braintree, Massachusetts. Both parents were members of prominent New England families of merchants, statesmen, and ministers. From her parents, Abigail learned a conservative, rational Puritanism. She retained throughout her life a solid Christian faith and shared with her Puritan forebears a belief in the fundamental depravity of humankind. These religious convictions influenced her political opinions.
Observing her mother’s example, Abigail learned her future duties as wife and mother. Within her role as minister’s wife, Elizabeth Smith provided relief for the town’s poor, nursed the town’s sick, and presented herself as a model of wifely behavior. She was nurturing and kind to her children.
In eighteenth century Massachusetts, education was prized. In government-supported schools, boys studied Latin, Greek, French, mathematics, and literary arts in preparation for higher education either at Harvard or abroad. Girls, however, were educated almost exclusively at home, receiving only rudimentary training in...
(The entire section is 2124 words.)
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