Freedom from poverty for all
Today we celebrate our nation’s independence and the founding fathers who gave us this freedom. However, we should not forget that for every John Adams, there was an Abigail Adams. For every John Hancock, there was a Dorothy Quincy Hancock Scott. And for every victory, there was a woman at home taking care of the family and household while taking the same risks for freedom. These were strong women.
Abigail Adams was a wife and mother, but often forgotten is that she was a partner for her husband in politics and more importantly, a voice for the voiceless. The Unitarian Universalist Historical Society (UUHS) shares her correspondence.
On March 31, 1776, in response to southern slavery, Abigail wrote that she doubted the distinguished Virginians in the corridors of power had quite the “passion for Liberty” they claimed, since they had been used to “depriving their fellow Creatures” of freedom.
On February 13, 1791, she wrote to her husband regarding a black servant boy who had come to her asking to go to school to learn to write. Abigail enrolled the boy in a local evening school. A neighbor reported serious objections of several people to the black boy’s presence. Swiftly Abigail responded that the boy was “a Freeman as much as any of the 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 both to read and write.” No further complaints were made.
Often, Abigail spoke up for married women’s property rights and more opportunities for women, particularly in education. She believed that women should not submit to laws clearly not made in their interest. Women should not content themselves with the role of being decorous companions to their husbands. They should educate themselves and be recognized for their intellectual capabilities, for their ability to shoulder responsibilities of managing household, family, and financial affairs, and for their capacity morally to guide and influence the lives of their children and husbands. Although she did not insist on full female enfranchisement, in her celebrated letter of March, 1776, she exhorted her husband to “remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable 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 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 over 200 years later, the need to speak against injustice has not ceased. The New York Times just reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, women are human pack horses, carrying loads of up to 220 pounds. They say “I don’t have a choice…I have to feed my family.” The impact on their health carrying the weight, the danger along the trails they walk, and the forfeiting of other opportunities are just some of the losses from this sad reality.
As you celebrate today with fireworks, backyard barbeques and a vacation day from work, remember the strong women who had a role in giving us the independence we value today and let us be strong voices – using prayer, advocacy and support – to work towards a world where everyone has independence and freedom to celebrate.