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Exhibition Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote

Abigail Adams (1744–1818) to her sister Elizabeth Shaw Peabody (1750–1815), July 19, 1799. Holograph letter. Shaw Family Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (004.00.00)
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“If man is Lord, woman is Lordess

Despite her famous admonition in 1776 to husband John Adams to “remember the ladies,” Abigail Adams and other women saw little permanent change to their legal and political status after the American Revolution. While first lady, Adams wrote this 1799 letter to her sister Elizabeth Smith Shaw Peabody, asserting she “will never consent to have our sex considered in an inferiour point of light,” nor cede the right to judge how men run the government.

Partial transcription:

I send my little Niece a Book. I did not Read it untill I bought it, there is no harm in it, many useful lessons, but some which I do not assent to or approve of—I will never consent to have our sex considered in an inferiour point of light. Let each planet shine in their own orbit. God and nature designd it so—If man is Lord, woman is Lordess. That is what I contend [. . .] for, and if a woman does not hold the Reigns of Government, I see no reason for her not judging how they are conducted—

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