I hope you smile.
Well, since I am probably giving this exact speech at my tournament today I thought I would post it for your entertainment. Enjoy! =)
She is trustworthy and productive, diligent and intelligent, kind and wise, strong and dignified. (NIV, Proverbs 31) Proverbs 31 verses 10 to 31 lists the character qualities of an excellent wife. The proverb also explains that such an excellent wife is hard to find. Thankfully, throughout history, God has left us with earthly examples of excellent wives, of Proverbs 31 women. These women inspire us with their examples and learning about them urges us on to Biblical womanhood. In my studies I have been particularly inspired by one such woman, a woman who exemplified Proverbs 31 qualities in her everyday life, a woman who was faithful in both the small things and the large things. A woman so virtuous, that not only did her family rise up and call her blessed, but so did an entire nation. May I introduce to you, Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, America’s Second First Lady, and a Proverbs 31 woman.
On November 11, 1744, a baby girl was born to Reverend William Smith and his wife Elizabeth. They named her Abigail. Abigail inherited her father’s love of books and learning, a passion that would follow her to her deathbed. (Gelles 19-20) The fruit of her devotion to learning is described in Proverbs 31, verse 26 which states:
“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (NIV, Prov. 31:26)
As indicated by her many writings, Abigail not only acquired a wealth of knowledge, but she also understood how to apply it to life; a wonderful example for modern-day Christians who often struggle with knowing their faith, yet not being able to apply it to their every day behaviors and attitudes. (Gelles 23)
Although Abigail became a prolific communicator in her later years, as a teenager she was not particularly social. In fact, she was so shy that she feared she would never marry. But the Lord had different plans for this bright young woman. And so, she met John Adams. The two got along quite beautifully from the start. John admired in particular, Abigail’s wisdom and her noble character, two Proverbs 31 traits that she possessed even at a young age. He requested permission to communicate with her through letters. She consented and they began writing each other frequently.
In fact, they wrote each other so often that Abigail confessed, in one letter, found on familytales.org
“I think I write to you every day. Shall not I make my letters very cheap? Don’t you light your pipe with them? I care not if you do. T’is a pleasure to me to write.” (familytales.org)
It seems that John also took pleasure in their correspondence, for before long, he was requesting Abigail’s hand in marriage. The answer, “Yes.” The result, one of the most brilliant and influential marriages in history.
Once married, Abigail and John raised six children on a farm named Braintree in Massachusetts. Abigail was often left alone to manage the farm and raise the children when John traveled, either as a circuit judge or as a congressman for his colony and eventually his state. (Holton 39-40) The fact that Abigail successfully made ends meet throughout this time is testament to the fact that she possessed yet another admirable quality from Proverbs 31. She was productive, frugal, and faithfully kept her family fed and clothed. As Proverbs puts it,
“In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers…When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” (NIV, Proverbs 31:17, 19)
During seasons of separation, John and Abigail continued to communicate frequently through letters, a practice that they continued from their early days of courtship. As the colonies became more and more frustrated with English imperial power and eventually fought to gain their independence in the Revolutionary War, the focus of their letters followed this chain of events. John detailed what was occurring and Abigail shared her insightful opinions as well as news of her daily life back at home. (familytales.org) John treasured her letters. They encouraged him greatly, something he shared with Abigail in a letter, found on familytales.org, which reads:
“I RECEIVED your kind letter at New York, and it is not easy for you to imagine the pleasure it has given me.” (familytales.org)
As Proverbs 31 states in verse 12, Abigail brought her husband good, and not evil. And she did so all the days of her life. (NIV, Proverbs 31:12)
John also appreciated that throughout these years, Abigail enthusiastically supported his many high-stakes decisions whether he decided to represent hated British redcoats in a trial concerning the Boston Massacre, or to leave his family on the farm while he served in Congress, and later as a diplomat in Europe. For her, one of the hardest decisions that John made was to take their eldest son, John Quincy, with him on one such diplomatic venture to Europe. As a result, Abigail would not see either John for almost five years. Although the men were unable to write her often, she wrote to both faithfully and managed to keep the family ties strong during the long separation. (Gelles 65) Meanwhile, she continued raising the remaining children at home, working diligently to make ends meet on the family farm. (Gelles 126) Proverbs 31, verse 27 explains it like this:
“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (NIV, Proverbs 31:27)
It is significant to realize that Abigail did not resent the difficulties she often experienced in her life. Rather, she tackled each new challenge with strength and dignity. This attitude of confidence and strength with absence of self-pity, caused her to be immensely productive and successful in each of the many challenges she met head-on. She could “laugh at the days to come,” just as the proverbial excellent wife. (NIV, Proverbs 31:25)
Furthermore, while Abigail supported her husband’s decisions, she was not afraid to challenge the common assumptions of the day. She was particularly interested in women gaining the right to vote and letters to her husband show that she was as much a feminist in this regard as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were in later years. In one famous letter, she says,
“by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” (familytales.org)
This complete letter, and others like it can be found on familytales.org. Abigail’s letters also show that was an avid abolitionist. (familytales.org)
After the end of the Revolutionary War, Abigail was rewarded for her perseverance by being able to join John for four years of diplomatic employment in France and England from the years 1784-1788. (Gelles 78) When Abigail and John finally returned to the United States Abigail was ready to settle down and spend precious time with her husband and two sons who still remained at home. Little did they realize that their busiest and most influential season of life together was still to come.
In 1789, George Washington was elected the first president of the newly formed United States. John Adams was elected his vice president. This required the Adams family to move to the capital. As Vice President’s wife, Abigail was expected to pay frequent social calls to wives of other prominent politicians. (Gelles 119) Her duties naturally increased in 1896, when John was elected president of the United States. Abigail became the second First Lady of the United States and first First Lady to live in the White House, which was still under construction during the six months in which she lived in it. Abigail took her role as First Lady seriously and vocally supported her husband’s decisions. (familytales.org)
When Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in the elections of 1800, John and Abigail retired to Braintree, which they renamed Quincy. Finally, the pair was able to enjoy a quiet and peaceful season of life. (Gelles 166) Abigail Adams died of typhus on October 28, 1818, a few days short of age 74. (Gelles 171) Her legacy of letters has long survived her life and they continue to offer us a glimpse into the mind and life of America’s second First Lady, the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman.
Abigail Adams is inspiring to me in so many ways. One of these was her ability to keep a well-ordered productive home, and at the same time remain updated on political and social happenings, and have influence on them. I also admire her tenacity. I admire how she cultivated a deep interest in her husband’s interests and was able to have a deeper relationship with him because of it. In letters that John wrote to her he not only refers to her as his beloved wife, but also as his dearest friend. In my opinion, Abigail exemplifies a Proverbs 31 woman because she fulfilled its heroic requirements eagerly and joyfully. I am so thankful that her cherished writings were preserved so that centuries after her death, she can still inspire me, and others, today.