|Although women did not have equality with men in the late 18th to
early 19th century, the Revolutionary War helped to influence some of the early ideas of
the feminist movement. What were some of their arguments for equality, and in what ways
did they try to move toward it?
Use the documents and your knowledge of the period from 1775 to 1825 to answer the question.
A Society of Patriotic Ladies at Edenton, North Carolina, March 25, 1775.
|Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than
your ancestors....If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are
determined to forment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which
we have no voice, or Representation.
If we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned
women....Education of youth and the first principals which are instilled take the deepest
root, great benefit must arise from literary accomplishments in women.
Adams Family Correspondence, Abigail Adams to John Adams, 1776
Adams Family Correspondence, Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, April 1776
|I have more particulars from you than from any one else. Pray keep me
constantly informed, what ships are in the Harbour and what Fortifications are going on.
As you are a Politician, and now elected into an important Office, that of Judgess of the Tory Ladies, which will give you naturally an Influence with your sex,...
Adams Family Correspondence, John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1776
| ....We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.-That
to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed.-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive
of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new
Government....But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the
same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right,
it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new Guards for their future
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
|The ladies have caught the happy contagion, and in a few days, Mrs. Reed
will have the honour of writing to you in the same subject. It is expected that she will
have a sum equal to 100,000 to be laid out according to your Excellecy's direction,...I
must observe that ladies have excepted such articles of necessity as clothing which the
States are bound to provide.
Joseph Reed to George Washington, to announce that a campaign to gather money from the households of Philadelphia had been undertaken by a women's committee, January 20, 1780
|Born for liberty, disdaining to bear the irons of a tyrannic
Government, we associate ourselves to the grandeur of those Sovereigns,
cherished and revered, who have held with so much splendour the scepter
of the greatest States, the Matildas, the Elizabeths, the Maries, the
Catherines, who have extended the empire of liberty, and contended to
reign by sweetness and justice, have broken the chains of slavery, forged
by tyrants in times of ignorance and barbarity....
The Sentiments of an American Woman, Esther DeBerdt Reed, 1780
|The first remark that I shall make upon this subject is that female
education should be accommodated to the state of society, manners, and government of the
country on which it is conducted....
The equal share that every citizen has in the liberty and the possible share he may have in the government of our country make it necessary that our ladies should be qualified to a certain degree, by a peculiar and suitable education, to concur in instructing their sons in the principles of liberty and government.
Thoughts Upon Female Education, Benjamin Rush, 1787
| ...Yes, ye lordly, ye haughty sex, our souls are
by nature equal to yours; the same breath of God animates, enlivens, and invigorates us;
and that we are not fallen lower than yourselves, let those witness who have greatly
towered above the various descouragements by which they have been so heavily
oppressed;...I dare confidently believe, that from the commencement of time to the present
day, there hath been as many females, as males, who, by the mere force of natural powers,
have merited the crown of applause;
...were we to grant that animal strength proved any thing, taking into consideration the accustomed impartiality of nature, we should be induced to imagine, that she had invested the female mind with superiour strength as an equivalent for the bodily powers of man. But waving this however palpable advantage, for equality only, we wish to contend.
A Post-Revolutionary Woman
Argues for Women's Equality,
|The age of admittance is from 8 to 14 years. The age of 16 terminates
their stay in the school; the duration of which however-within the period thus
limited-depends altogether on the pleasure of their parents and guardians, unless their
department and morals should be such, as not to admit of their continuance in the
The branches taught are: Reading, Grammar, Writing, Arithmetic, History, Geography (German if desired), plain Needlework, and etc. Music and fine Needlework, including Drawing, are two extra branches, in which instruction is given, if expressly desired....
Terms and Conditions of the Boarding School for Female Education in Litiz, Pennsylvania, January 6, 1809