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Ethical Women in History

In United States history, Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, and Margaret Sanger were all instrumental in advancing the cause of feminism. Adams was primarily concerned with equality in education, Anthony with advancing the cause of temperance to prevent harm to women and children, and Sanger with enabling women to have control over sexuality and reproduction. While the work of all of these women could be considered as overlapping the boundaries of ethical theories such as respecting autonomy, benefiting others, and being just, each can be grouped into a distinct category of ethical theory serving as the primary basis for their lifeÆs endeavors.

In the Colonial era women were denied the right to preach religion, receive formal education, and at times to own property. Their roles were largely relegated to that of wife, mother, and housekeeper. Despite such limitations on women, many refused to be bound by such artificially and typically male imposed confines. Abigail Adams represented such a woman, the wife of first vice-president John Adams, later First Lady to Adams as AmericaÆs second president, and the mother of still another president, John Quincy Adams. Well, educated, worldly and built of hardy New England puritan stock, Adams helped expand roles for women by helping shape an ideology that became known as Republican Motherhood. Adams believed that education should be equal to girls and boys, women should have the right to preach, and she opposed slavery. She greatly influenced her husband in such matters, writing to him as he was involved in the administration of the United States:

[R]emember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbandsàIf particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in


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Ethical Women in History. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:10, May 25, 2020, from