Womens Role In The New Republic
The 18th century was an age of change and enlightenment. For America it was the time of social change which ultimately led to American Revolution and establishment of the new democratic country where all people were equal by the law. These changes dramatically affected the role of women from been nurturing parent to also becoming a teacher and companion of the husband. However, the changes that occurred inside the families weren’t reflected into social world where men were still dominating force. Abigail Adams was one of the first women to question male superiority and the importance of laws for women which ultimately led to establishment of Women’s Rights.
For women in America life in the early 18th century was associated with domestic activities. They were required to take care of household and raise the children while men were expected to support family with food and other common needs in order to survive. Even women who belonged to the upper class and had maids to help around the house were still expected to stay at home and be by the side of their husbands when necessary. Marriages were usually based on economic partnership and cultural believes. Husbands ruled over their wives and made all of the family decisions. It was almost impossible for women to be involved in public matters. In fact, women had no right at all to participate in activities that weren’t permitted by the husbands and if they were to do so the men were allowed by the law to punish their wives for disobedience. It felt almost like they were imprisoned in the domestic environment by their Masters who were men. However, times were changing and the women’s view of the world was changing as well.
Age of Enlightenment brought a new understanding of the world which emphasized the importance of human intellectual abilities over material wealth as key to success. People started to question traditional ideas that stressed the importance of wealth and social status on human rights in the society. Perhaps the most significant idea of the Enlightenment was that all people are created equal and free to choose their way in life. For women it meant a lot since the change weakened the role of the husbands as natural rulers and allowed the women to begin questioning their role in the society. The importance of education was stresses like never before because it was important for moral development and ideal operation of the society. During this period many women began participating in many recreational activities such as singing, drawing, reading books and writing their own small stories. However, when men were learning advanced sciences all that was offered to women was basic knowledge that could only be transferred to their children.
American Revolution brought a breath of fresh air and hope for better future for many people. Among them were women who wanted like never before to be a part of the society and be acknowledge as a rightful members. It was a period of time when women for the first time in history went publicly protesting against male superiority. Lucy Knox, the wife of General Knox, wrote to her husband in 1777, “I hope you will not consider yourself as commander in chief of your own house–but be convinced…that there is such a thing as equal command.” Even though the role of the women as mothers didn’t change, the new ways required women to have basic education to teach their young about the importance of the law, morality and different responsibilities to their country. Education was now not only essential for men but also increasingly important for women as well. Women’s role in the family was rapidly changing from been obedient wives to more liberal companions to their husbands. However, the changes that occurred inside the families didn’t reflect the harsh reality of the outside world where women had almost no legal representation. Overall, the American Revolution resulted in the limited gain of status and recognition but it was a giant step towards social equality, freedom and independence. It inspired many women to fight for their rights ever since.
Abigail Adams was one of the first women to stress the importance of women to be rightfully represented by the law in the New Republic. Her marriage to John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the United States, wasn’t considered a marriage for financial benefits but rather a marriage of minds and mature love. In the letter to her husband, John Adams, she expressed her concerns of total male superiority which was unjust and immoral toward women, “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. “ She believed that women were just as men entitled for legal representation by the law and in return ready to face its consequences. The laws must never ignore the women and if they did women would have no other choice than to rebel against the tyranny of men, “If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion.” Abigail Adams knew that what she was asking would be ignored by the outside world dominated by men. Nevertheless, John Adams was her husband and she knew that he had a power to make a difference. In the reality challenging the order that was established long ago and accepted by many was very harder and any adjustment would raise social confrontations which usually lead to even more unwanted problems. John Adams was aware of women been mistreated by the law but he had no other choice then to disregard the request because more important social norms were at stake. Abigail Adams was a very active woman. She worked as diploma in Europe, had to manage the farm and take care of her family. No wonder when she wrote to John Adams, “Remember the Ladies”, she strongly believed that women can be as independent and open minded as men and, therefore, they should be treated equally.
In conclusion, I believe that women are just as men are human being that share the same social environment and, consequently, should be treated equally. In no way there should be a law that allows a man physically abuses his wife and go unpunished for his acts. Unfortunately, women rights were neglected through out the history mostly due to beliefs of women been natural inferior to men. However, Age of Enlightenment brought so needed change into lives of women which not only transformed their role in the family but also changed their view of the world. Today, women have the same opportunities as men whether they want to study towards the degree, pursue their career of choice or be mothers and raise the children. This would’ve never been possible if it wasn’t for women like Abigail Adams who in her letters laid an early foundation for the feminist movement in the United States.