Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison-Founding Mothers

Our logo incorporates images of Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison, Founding Mothers for the United States, for they represent two major lifestyles American women have pursued. Abigail Adams was a noted bluestocking, deeply interested in the major issues of her time, and married to John Adams, America's second president.

Abigail asked her husband, John, to "remember the ladies" when the Founding Fathers drafted the U.S. Constitution. She insisted women should have equality in the constitution, saying in a letter dated March 31, 1776, "Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Laidies [sic] we are determined to foment a Rebelion [sic], and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."

But John refused to include women in the constitution. The only supporter of women's suffrage among the Founding Fathers was Aaron Burr.

Would giving women equal rights including the vote at this time have been too divisive an issue for this young republic? This question has been asked with regard to ending slavery, and answered in the affirmative because of the power of the Southern vote. But equal rights for American women was possible at that time, and by deferring this issue, American women had to fight many uphill battles before winning the vote in 1920. The American people owe a great debt to Abigail for her early advocacy of this crucial cause. America has yet to pass the Equal Rights Amendment—first put forth in 1923.

We see this very same issue on the table in Iraq today, and this time there is no question that women's equality must be guaranteed. To fail to do this will simply lead to Iraqi women's suppression, and disgrace to the United States and Great Britain, for we have stood for democracy and must continue to do so, or destabilize this region.

What Abigail Adams said in 1776 is even more true today, and this time there is no going back, or waffling on women's issues if we wish to have stable international relations over the long run. We must make long-term commitments to women's human rights and keep them. Why should the women of Iraq have less than they had before and less than women have in the United States, Great Britain, and other parts of the world? Iraqi women are 65 percent of the population, so affirmative action would ensure their full citizenship, removing their minority status.

The Adams's marriage was nontraditional, based on deep, shared interests in the leading ideas of that time. Both people were enormously intelligent and well informed. They shaped their time and ours by helping create the institutions by which generations of Americans have lived.

Dolley Madison married James Madison, the principal builder of the U.S. Constitution adopted in 1787, and the man who became America's fourth president. He contracted panic disorder and agoraphobia in 1771 not long after graduating from Princeton. These were partly precipitated by the fact that he had finished the course work for his B.A. in three years instead of four. The death of a close friend was the other major precipitating factor.

Agoraphobia consists of panic attacks that occur on leaving places or persons of safety. Panic disorder has panic attacks that occur without regard to context. Both conditions can be quite disabling if the environment is unfavorable to their control. Thomas Jefferson too suffered from a complex (as opposed to a simple) phobia, and what he had is known as social phobia. He had great difficulty speaking in public and kept away from contentious gatherings. Nonetheless he was a very able president, diplomat and writer.

Complex phobias involve networks of fears, whereas a simple phobia involves one fear, such as a fear of spiders, thunder, the number 13. Complex phobias are quite difficult to treat.

The Madison marriage was not a love match at first, for though James loved Dolley, she did not love James. As a young widow with a young son to support, she considered her situation carefully and when James proposed marriage, she chose him because he was financially stable and well positioned in society. However, since he was such a fine person, enormously considerate of her and intelligent, Dolley fell in love with him. His nature and manners won her heart. Though their marriage was based on a union of different life styles, it was as solid as the Adams's marriage.

Dolley carried out the conventional role of wife by supporting James's career completely. James dictated many documents to Dolley to write up for his presidential papers. A great hostess, Dolley's parties were legendary and she was so well liked by the politicians of her day that they gave her an honorary seat in Congress. She was famous for her hats, which brightened the times. Such marks of taste and originality contribute essential ingredients to dynamic, good societies.

These two people were equals, true partners, as were Abigail and John. Dolley's enormous social intelligence was extremely useful to her, James, and the United States. James knew how to create durable political institutions which we inhabit to this day.

It is interesting to reflect on how these two different marriage styles worked out, because both created a great deal of happiness for the couples. Their marriages had a great impact on American history. It should not be forgotten that Dolley took infinite pains to shield James from the terrible effects of his panic attacks, those primary hallmarks of panic disorder and agoraphobia. Without her insight and total dedication, America would not have had the use of James's enormous talent. America owes a great debt to both women.

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Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison are Women for All Seasons.


Full citizenship for women is on the table in Iraq today. Women's equality in Iraq must be guaranteed or Iraqi women will be suppressed, and that will disgrace the United States and Great Britain who stand for democracy.


If we wish to have stable international relations we must make long-term commitments to women's human rights worldwide and keep them. The women of Iraq must have more rights, not fewer, than they had before the war. Women in Iraq make up 65 percent of the population, so let's bring in affirmative action. Why should Iraq's women have minority status in their own country?


Thomas Jefferson, a friend of John Adams and James Madison, had social phobia and could barely speak in public or face contentious gatherings. But he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and made a great president and diplomat.


Dolley Madison shielded James from the effects of his panic attacks, and without her insight and total dedication, James's talent would have been lost to America.