In March 1776, Abigail Adams was keenly aware of the domestic abuse that women in the colonies suffered when she implored her husband, John, to “Remember the Ladies” in her memorable letter. She sought protections for women, in particular married women, in the Declaration of Independence. Though women were largely ignored in the language set out in that document—and later in the United States Constitution, completed just over a decade later—Abigail Adams introduced two powerful ideas into the public discourse: that women needed legal protections that differed from those conceived of by men and granted to protect the power held by men, and that those safeguards must reach into the core of married women’s experiences—the home. Women of all races and backgrounds knew that this hallowed space, often thought to be beyond the law’s reach, was indeed a place where they could be tyrannized and that any chance they had to live as independent members of society must begin there.
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