I wrote my alternate ending about Abigail Adams and women’s suffrage after researching women’s rights and looking at the current storm on abortion rights with the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. When I was writing my first book, “Clouds of War”, I was surprised by the fact that most women couldn’t sign contracts, and lost control over the property as soon as they were married. In researching my as-yet-unpublished Revolutionary War novel, I discovered that in some colonies, women could vote before the signing of the US Constitution, but lost that right. That led me to look at where these laws depriving women of rights came from – and the answer was somewhat astonishing. It turns out that there was a barrister named William Blackstone in England, who spread the idea of “coverture” because he believed women were emotionally and intellectually unfit for politics, business, and most intellectual endeavors. Blackstone was an obscure lawyer who had lost his job and was not particularly adept at the law, but his book “Commentaries on the Laws of England” was particularly popular with men. It became a mantra of male dominance, without bothering to prove the points it contained.
In studying the Revolutionary War, I read many of the original letters and documents from Abigail and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Mercy Otis Warren, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. I was impressed in particular with the logic, intellect, and writing of Abigail Adams. Thanks to her separation for months at a time from her husband, she wrote over two thousand letters. Though she requested that they be burned at her death, thankfully, someone did not follow that instruction, and we have a large collection of her thoughts and feelings during that period.
One letter, in particular, caught my attention, from Abigail to John, and his reply. She had just heard of the decision to declare independence from England, and being of sharp mind, immediately realized that the slate of laws was wiped clean, and they might begin afresh. She was excited at the prospect of equal rights for women, including the vote, and wrote to John that when they made the new laws, the men must “remember the ladies”. John effectively laughed at her and expressed many of the same opinions voiced in Blackstone’s book. In real life, while she was vexed, Abigail acted as the submissive wife of her time and culture, though voicing her indignation in letters both to John, Thomas Jefferson, and her friend Mercy Otis Warren. Reading Abigail’s displeasure led me to wonder – what if? What if she had rallied the other leading women, as well as the poor non-landowning farmer men, to demand the right to vote? How could she have leveraged it to make the men listen? What had the women done before as a group, and what had its effect been?
From there, the story “Remember the Ladies” practically wrote itself, primarily using Abigail’s own words. I hope you enjoy it.