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Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren Biography and Life Facts


Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren are two women who are known as United States founding mothers. Abigail Adams married former United States president John Adams. She was actively involved in the political life of her husband. She had forced her husband to accept women’s legal rights. On the other hand, Mercy Otis vigorously opposed the colonization at Massachusetts in Britain. Her work as an artist is often considered to be her way for presenting her political opinions. As a political writer she gave her voice when many other women maintained their silence. The two women were both born at Massachusetts, and both actively engaged in politics as feminist pushing not just their husband agendas, but the voice of women. These papers excavate into the lives of these two great women in American history.

Abigail Adams

She was born on November 11, 1744. Her parents were William Smith and Elizabeth Quincy. She was born at Weymouth, Massachusetts[1]. She did not have formal education, but instead learnt at home. She learned writing, reading, and mathematics. She also studied dance, music, and Irish. She had access to her father and grandfather’s libraries. Her father was someone who loved to learn and read and often encouraged his children to look at his extensive library[2]. Her special interest was on theology, philosophy, Shakespeare, ancient theory, the classics, and government law[3].

Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren Biography and Life Facts

She met her husband and a lawyer John Adams when she was only 15, they later married on October 25 1764 and moved to Boston with him[4]. They bought a huge track of land in 1787, known as Peacefield, and John Adams was then a minister for Great Britain. Their marriage conceived three children among them the Sixth president of United States, John Quincy Adams.  Her first child came into their lives almost immediately after marriage. Therefore, her first role as a wife was to raise these children. Her other roles in the family included helping her husband in managing finances for their household, and producing crops. In 1774, Abigail, was left behind by her husband as he went to serve the British government as a delegate of the colony in the First Continental Congress[5].  This period led to a correspondence between the two that forms the basis of much of the public debates regarding her. In these letters she passed various advices to her husband political questions. She also reflected her own observations as well as the unfolding events during the revolution. Abigail in 1776, when the Second Continental Congress came close, began to write letters to her husband telling him that there was need for new government to uplift the legal status of women to the level of men. Though she did not succeed in pushing him to admit the need to do this, her writing are the first known attempts to have women enjoy the same rights as men. She remained separated with her husband as he moved between countries in official duties, but she kept him informed of what was taking place locally.

She took an active role in her husband political life. Following her husband election to the presidency of United States between March 179 7 and March 1801 as the second president, she rose to the status of First Lady. She stayed with him in Philadelphia and later on at Washington, D.C for a period of eighteen months in both places[6]. Often, she openly criticized those she considered to be against her husband Federal Party. The anti-Federalist inclined to Thomas Jefferson like Albert Gallatin became her immortal enemies and openly criticized her in press. He called her names and nicknamed her “Mrs. A party, not the president of the United States. Although such statements hurt her a lot, she was not intimidated. She did not fear to give her personal opinion. She was not liked for her opinions, but was highly valued by her husband[7]. Her impact on presidential elections has made her the opposition’s number one enemy. In addition, she consistently campaigned for freedom of African-American slaves and equality in education for girls.

Just about the time the continental Congress gave the independence declaration in 1776, she had written a letter to her husband requesting him to put ladies into consideration while drafting new code of laws she argued that ladies were going to rebel if they were not going to be represented or given a voice. It is known that her husband refused to harkens to her statement, and Holton writes how she went ahead to revolt against these laws within her household[8]. As one of her letter in 1782, revealed, she took issue with the law degradation of women by giving husbands undue rights to control and even disposal of the properties of their wives. She went ahead to defy these laws and created her own wealth. In 1816, convinced she was in the edge of death she sat down and wrote down a will. Legally she did not have a right to own properties while her husband was alive and the mere act of drafting this will was an a act of rebellion. Even more intriguing is the fact that she decide to live her properties not to her sons, but to other married women.

She is therefore, known to have initiated a revolution for personal property rights. Like many other patriots in the revolutionary period her husband abandoned his family for a very long period. As a result, he was not able to manage their properties. Abigail was therefore responsible for managing the financial aspects of the family and she was very good at it. She was very good at investing these fiancés because she was open to risks. She invested her husband money in government securities and other ventures. Out of this money she stashed away some, which she referred to as her own pocket money[9].  In her will she gave out most of her wealth to her granddaughters as compared to what she left for her male relatives. Holton argues that the main reason for doing this was not because she hated them, but because she wanted to cut her life as one of advocating for women rights to own property. Her will did not have any weight in the court of law, but it was honored by her husband.

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814)

She was born in Barnstable, Massachusetts as the daughter of Colonel James Otis and Mary Allyne. Her parents did not take her to school, but she was allowed to attend her brother’s lesson, with his tutor Reverend Russell. Therefore, like Abigail Adams she also received exceptional training unlike other women of 18th century. Her brother, James Otis had great influence on the direction of her life. Besides, his influence in convincing their parents to allow her attend his lessons, his political life also shaped the path of her life. James Otis was brutally attacked as he walked towards British Coffee House in Occupied Boston by the British officers. This incident had a great impact on Mercy Otis life.

Mercy had a talent for writing and she was urged on by her brother. He also took over her tutoring and was the first to read her initial poems. Her first writing was mainly influenced by her religious background. However, her writing was transformed and she became a political playwright, satirist, and historian. She married James Warren, in 1754. Her brother continued to influence her even in marriage life. It was time for the American Revolution and James Otis forged the phrase that “taxation without representation is tyranny” to oppose the British government oppressive taxes[10]. In the 1750s and 60 her husband John Warren and others joined her brother to form the Sons of Liberty. Her home hosted many political meetings and she was involved in deliberating liberty and independence issues. She played a key role in facilitating the growth of this movement by starting to write political satire through pamphlets, poems, and plays.

Mercy Ortiz in particular took offense with certain individuals. She considered Governor Hutchinson’s actions as one of the reasons for her father political disappointments. She also associated the British attack on her brother to what later befell him, which is mental incapacitation. Following attack of James Otis in 1769, she decided to carry his mantle. She was determined to keep the mantle of liberty that his brother initiated with her writing. She also kept close friendship with Abigail Adams and John Adams. Together with her husband, these friends helped her to carry on her new role. John Adams in particular, helped her to publish her first play “the Adulateur” in 1772. It was published in the Massachusetts Spy and acted in Upper Servia. She used this play to criticize the governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson. She portrayed his leadership as being wicked. She criticized him and his allies for what she considered to be monopolization of public offices. This play also depicted the people she considered to be the patriots of the nation including James Warren, Sam Adams, and James Otis[11]. Her other plays like The Defeat (1773) as well as the Group (1779) also praised the patriots and rebuked the British troops and tyrannical leaders. They represent her filial emotions and patriotism[12].


These are two exception women involved in their own unique ways in shaping American future in the revolution period. Abigail comes out as a strong champion of women right to education and in property ownership. Her role as a political leader can also not be undermined, as she not only shaped her husband political direction prior to his presidency, but also during his tenure. On the other hand, Mercy Otis Warren comes out as an exceptional writer who uses her literary work to influence the public perception of patriotism and traitors. These two women depicts the strengths of women in the prehistoric time, despite not being well empowered by the society. They both did not get formal education, but they did great with the opportunity given to them by those who loved them.


Primary Sources
  • “First Lady Biography: Abigail Adams”. National First Ladies’ Library. Web
  • Black, Allida. “Abigail Smith Adams”. theWhite House. (2009). Web.
  • Hamlin, Joanne. Mercy Otis Warren: Patriot with a Pen. Helion Nine, Vol.8, (1983): 84-90.
Secondary Sources
  • Donnelly, M. A. Mercy Otis warren (1728-1814): Satirist of the American Revolution.  ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (1988).
  • Holton, Woody. Abigail Adams’ Last Act of Defiance. American History. 45.1, (2010). 56-61.
  • Wheeler, Jill C.  Abigail Adams. Edina, Minn: ABDO. (2010).
  • Allida, Black. Abigail Smith Adams. theWhite House. (2009). Web.
  • Jill C. Wheeler.  Abigail Adams. Edina, Minn: ABDO. (2010). p8.
  • “First Lady Biography: Abigail Adams”. National First Ladies’ Library. Web.
  • Jill C. Wheeler.  Abigail Adams. Edina, Minn: ABDO. (2010). p11
  • Allida, Black. Abigail Smith Adams. theWhite House. (2009). Web.
  • “First Lady Biography: Abigail Adams”. National First Ladies’ Library. Web
  • Jill C. Wheeler.  Abigail Adams. Edina, Minn: ABDO. 2010. p4
  • Woody Holton. Abigail Adams’ Last Act of Defiance. American History. 45.1, (2010). 57
  • Woody Holton. Abigail Adams’ Last Act of Defiance. American History. 45.1, (2010). 59
  • Joanne Hamlin. Mercy Otis Warren: Patriot with a Pen.  Helion Nine, Vol.8, (1983): 86
  • Joanne Hamlin. Mercy Otis Warren: Patriot with a Pen.  Helion Nine, Vol.8, (1983): 87
  • Marguerite Anne Donnelly. Mercy Otis warren (1728-1814): Satirist of the American Revolution.  ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (1988)..

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