Sunday, November 27, 2011

Closing the Book and Saying Goodbye

We finished Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution, an AO biography for Year 4, the day before Thanksgiving, and it was like saying goodbye to a friend. The last few paragraphs I read through tears. Even Tiny Girl, who did not like this book at the beginning, was sad to see her go.

I wish I could have known Abigail. I am sure her industry would have shamed me, but oh, to witness her quiet strength, to learn from her uncommon wisdom, and to share, even in the smallest fashion, her experiences would be astonishing.

And what a time to be alive! It was certainly a time of grave uncertainty and horror, not merely due to the events leading up to a revolution, but also due to the immense difficulties of the every day, the spider's web-fragility of life. Abigail and her contemporaries suffered losses and trials many of us avoid today due to our improved health care knowledge and resources.

The lack of education for girls greatly irritated the young Abigail, and as an adult, she deeply believed in women's primary role as wives, mothers, nurturers, and healers. But she also believed that husbands and wives were equal partners in life. The precarious position of women in society prompted her to write to her husband:

... and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary 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.

Along with the confusion, anxiety, and fear of war came to chance to create something new. Abigail, through John, was greatly involved in these events. John sent her "a feast of letters" detailing events in Philadelphia, and Abigail followed military operations on her own map. Joh relied on her to run their farm, but he also relied on her good sense and wisdom, which she sent in numerous letters of her own.

Reading this most wonderful book allowed my children and me to live vicariously though Abigail. We were concerned when she faced difficulties, like her many and long separations from John, her "dearest friend." We were sad when she grieved her losses. We appreciated her wit, so evident in her letters to others. We, too, wondered at the outcome of events. We watched the birth of the United States. Together, we learned much.

As for me, I've so often longed for a quiet life, but Abigail had something to say to me about that wish. On her way to join John in Europe, Abigail's ship endured a dead calm, which left the ship motionless. She wrote: "a Calm is not desireable in any situation in life. . . . Every object is most Beautiful in motion, a ship under sail trees gently agitated with the wind & a fine woman danceing (sic). . . man was made for action" (p. 124). And so am I.

What a lovely, blessed life to celebrate!

P.S. If you're interested in reading more of Abigail's letters to John and others, please see,'s page on John and Abigail Adams, which features links to digital bookshelves.


  1. Ellen, I'm so glad you shared this. I recently had a similar experience with a bio I was reading, personally....I just couldn't stand to finish it b/c it was like "saying goodbye to a friend"...
    Enjoyed reading your thoughts on Abigail.

  2. me too. i seriously loved this book. i had no idea i would. i learned so so so much from abigail...


I love reading comments! And I appreciate the time you take to leave them. Thanks!