Thursday, April 30, 2020

Moravian Rites of Death in Bethlehem, PA

Escapes: Moravian rites of death in Bethlehem, PA.
By Sue Kovach Shuman September 28, 2012

'Moravian funeral processions followed the path above from the Old Chapel to God’s Acre cemetery in Bethlehem, Pa. 

'With a little imagination, you can almost hear the trombones at God’s Acre cemetery in Bethlehem, Pa. At the funerals of all 2,617 Moravians buried here since 1742, trombone music accompanied a solemn procession of mourners carrying the dead to their final resting place.

'They were brought here on “death trays,” which are basically large cradles, as I learned on a tour called “Death and Dying in Early Bethlehem: Going Home” offered by the nonprofit organization Historic Bethlehem. It’s a 1¼-hour look at the funeral practices of the Moravians, Protestant settlers from the then-Habsburg-controlled lands of Moravia and Bohemia who settled the area in the 1700s, founding Bethlehem in 1741.

"The tour begins at the Moravian Museum, also known as the 1741 Gemeinhaus, in the town’s oldest building. In the upstairs meeting room, or Saal, where the Moravians worshiped, docent Madeline Morris instructed the men in our group to sit on one side, the women on the other, as the Moravians would have sat.

"In the Moravian community of the day, life was highly regimented. Single men and women lived in separate buildings. “You ate within, were educated within and worshiped within your choir,” said Morris, “choir” in this instance meaning group, not a musical organization.

"You could tell a woman’s age and status — single, married or widowed — by the color of ribbon on her Moravian cap. This was a cap “with a birdlike beak,” Morris told us, like the one she was wearing. She also wore a dress that was fastened down the front with straight pins, as would have been common in 1760. Women “also used hawthorn thorns,” Morris said, to hold their dresses together. I noticed that she never flexed her shoulders, so that the pins stayed in place, and wondered how many pin injuries Moravian women might have sustained.

"The museum contains a music room, because music was very important to the Moravians, who sang as they worked, Morris said. The first recorded use of trombones in America was in 1754 in Bethlehem. Trombones were the primary musical instrument used for celebrations — and a funeral was a celebration.

"Morris told us the story of an ailing woman who heard some anxious theological students practicing their trombones one day as she lay in her sickbed. “Those rascals,” the woman reportedly said. “I’m not dying.” And sure enough, she rallied to spite the students, who were removed from music duty.

"Some blue and white Delftware jugs in the first doctor’s apothecary at the museum still contain some drugs. The room also features a 1788 “kranken stube,” a cushiony easy chair for the sick that’s a contrast to the bare wooden benches mostly used back then.

"We headed outdoors for the rest of the tour. A death tray, on loan from the Central Moravian Church, lay sheltered in an archway near exposed log walls. Morris described the funeral ritual.

"A body, covered by a white cloth and placed on the death tray, would be taken to the corpse house, which no longer exists but once stood near the Old Chapel, the original building of the Central Moravian Church. There was no embalming. The body would perhaps be kept in the corpse house for a few days “if relatives had to come” from afar, Morris said.

"Moravians kept diaries, including their thoughts on death. Indeed, “they aspired to death,” Morris said. “You live for Christ here and long for the day when you meet your savior.” When someone died, his diary would be read at his grave.

"The tour wound uphill past the Old Chapel to the cemetery along the same route trod so many times in bygone years.

"God’s Acre, which is actually three acres, fronts on Market Street and is surrounded by church property on two sides. Flat grave markers hug the ground, all but one exactly alike, because Moravians believed that everybody is equal in death. Lives are reduced to a few lines. Rows and sections are segregated by sex and marital status, as in life.

"The cemetery tour, which stops at a dozen graves, is like a Who Was Who in Bethlehem. John Mueller’s tombstone reads No. 1 because he was the first person buried in the cemetery. To his left rests first-name-only Ben, an Indian who died in 1746. James Burnside, who wasn’t a farmer but became one because that’s what the community needed, died in 1755 of a massive stroke on his plantation, which is now a historic site.

"John Ettwein, administrator of Bethlehem during the American Revolution, “was noted for his principles,” Morris said. He thought that one baker’s pennycakes, a staple treat for children, “were a bit light” and weighed a few. They were. “He wrote a scathing letter to the baker,” who stopped cheating, Morris said.

"Morris showed us a picture of artist John Valentine Haidt, whose religious paintings were carried by Moravian missionaries in North America. Native Americans supposedly wept when they saw his painting of Jesus nailed to the cross, Morris said. She also showed us an illustration of Michael, a native American with red scars and tattoos over much of his body, who became a Christian and was buried in section A in 1758.

"I was moved by the stories in the women’s section. Susanna Louisa Partsch, who had an abusive stepfather, became a missionary and escaped a Delaware Indians massacre by jumping out of a window of a burning building and hiding in a hollow log. Mariana Hoecht, who was captured in 1755 and “given in marriage” to two successive Native Americans, eventually escaped and returned to Bethlehem, where she died at age 34.

"The largest tombstone, in the middle of a paved path, belongs to Juliana Nitschmann, a leader in the community who was known as the mother of Pennsylvania for her work among women.

"Morris pointed out the graves of children either stillborn or dead before they were named, marked with “Beatus” or “Beata,” meaning “blessed one...”

"But for what LoriAnn Wukitsch of Historic Bethlehem describes as “not a ghostly, howly tour,” but fact-based insight into the Moravians, there’s “Death and Dying.” I’d come to Bethlehem to bring the dead to life, and I wasn’t disappointed."

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

1772 American Mother & Child

1772 Winthrop Chandler (1747-1785). Eunice Huntington Devotion.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Moravian Holy Spirit as Mother

"One of the least known & most intriguing parts of Zinzendorf’s theology is his use of the word "Mother" to describe the Holy Spirit. This was not just a passing fancy for Zinzendorf. In fact, for over twenty years, this was the primary way he referred to the Holy Spirit & towards the end of his life, his attachment to this type of devotion increased. In the 1750s, the Moravians sang several litanies about the Mother, & even had a special annual festival celebrating the "enthronement" of the Spirit as the Mother of the church.
1810 Stained Glass Window at York's PA First Moravian Church

"Zinzendorf’s approach to the motherhood of the Holy Spirit may relevance for contemporary discussion on the language we use when we speak of God. For Zinzendorf, the main issue was not whether a metaphor was sexist, it was whether the metaphor clearly, concretely, & persuasively communicated the nature of God. For him, it was better for the believer to call the Spirit "Mother" than anything else because that word communicates something essential about the way in which the Holy Spirit deals with the children of God. In his own life, he found that he had difficult experiencing the reality of the Holy Spirit until he came upon this metaphor.

"I could not speak about it [the Holy Spirit], since I did not know how I should define it. I simply believed that she is the third person of the Godhead, but I could not say how this was properly so. Instead I thought of her abstractly. ... The Holy Spirit had known me well, but I did not know her before the year 1738. That is why I carefully avoided entering in the matter until the Mother Office of the Holy Spirit had been so clearly opened up for me.

"According to Zinzendorf, the name which best communicates the reality of the Spirit’s relationship to Christians is simply "Mother" because those who know the Spirit know her as the Mother. Those who experience the Trinity in their hearts know that "a family must be complete. We must have a Father, Mother, & Husband."

"God [Christ] is even our dear husband, his Father is our dear Father, & the Holy Spirit is our dear Mother, with that we are finished, with that the family-idea, the oldest, the simplest, the most respectable, the most endearing idea among all human ideas, the true biblical idea, is established with us in the application of the holy Trinity, for no one is nearer to one than Father, Mother, & Husband.

This is language that even a child can comprehend. It is the best language to communicate spiritual reality for all people because it does not depend on abstract reasoning or speculation on unfathomable realities.

"Zinzendorf argued for the scriptural authority of the Mother Office by linking together the Old & New Testament verses Isaiah 66:13 & John 14:26:  "When the dear Savior at the end of his life wanted to comfort his disciples (at that time the language was not as rich as ours is); by that time the Savior, who was a very great bible student, had doubtlessly read the verse in the Bible "I will comfort you as a mother comforts one." Then the dear Savior thought, "If I should say to my disciples that I am going away, then I must give them some comfort. I must say to them that they will receive someone who will comfort them over my departure. It will not be strange to them, for they have already read it in the Bible. ...There it reads, they shall have a Mother: "I will leave you my Spirit."

"Zinzendorf acknowledges that theologians have generally rejected this linking of verses & the subsequent naming of the Holy Spirit "Mother," but he responds:Now no theologian is irritated if the word comfort is taken out of the passage & applied to the Holy Spirit, for they call her the Comforter. But if we take out the word Mother & signify it to the Holy Spirit, then people are opposed to it. I can find no cause for such bickering & arbitrariness, & therefore I pay no attention to it. For if the activity in a passage is proper to the Holy Spirit, then the title also goes to the Holy Spirit.

"Zinzendorf insists that the word "Mother" does not introduce a distinction of genders into the deity, such as Ann Lee or Mary Baker Eddy proposed, but deals only with the activity of God in the world. The Mother is not a goddess. Rather, the Holy Spirit acts in the role of mother to the church.

"Zinzendorf explicated his doctrine of the Holy Spirit, proclaiming that she is a mother in three distinct ways. First, it was the Spirit, not Mary, who was the true mother of Jesus, since she "prepared him in the womb, hovered over him, & finally brought him into the light. She [the Spirit] gave him [Jesus] certainly into the arms of his mother, but with invisible hands carried him more than his mother did." Second, the Spirit is the mother of all living things because she has a special role in the on-going creation of the world. "It is known that the Holy Spirit brings everything to life, & when the man was made from a clump of earth ... the Holy Spirit was very close through the breathing of the breath of God into the man." Thus, the Holy Spirit is the mother of all living souls in a general way.

"The Holy Spirit is also the Mother in a third & most important sense. She is the Mother of the church & all those who have been reborn. "The Holy Spirit is the only Mother of those souls who have been once born out of the side hole of Jesus, as the true womb of all blessed souls." Zinzendorf bases this understanding of the Spirit giving birth to converted souls in large part on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, not from his mother’s womb, but from God. Nicodemus knew that we are born from a mother, not a father, but he did not know who this mother was. Zinzendorf has Jesus reply, "There is another Mother, not the one who physically gave you birth, that one doesn’t matter: you must have another Mother who will give you birth." Ultimately, then, the Holy Spirit is the Mother of the Christian in the sense that she is the active agent in conversion. Human actors are only agents of the Holy Spirit, & in some cases are not even necessary for conversion.

"The first duty of the Spirit is to preach Christ, but her motherly work does not end there. The Mother also cares for her spiritual children just as a human mother cares for her physical children. She protects, guides, admonishes, & comforts the child of God throughout the changing years of earthly life. "The Mother does not rest until a child has lasting grace, until it finally sinks into the hands of the one Husband, the Friend of all souls, the Creator of all things, who is now the Bridegroom." The care of the Holy Spirit mainly takes the form of preserving Christians from sin. Believers enter the school of the Holy Spirit where they are taught what they should & should not do. Just as a human mother teaches her child proper behavior by saying, "My child, you must do it this way, [&] you must not do that," so too does the Holy Spirit."

"The Mother who is above all mothers [says], "I will comfort you; I will remind you; I will motivate you; I will define you; I will wean you from all rudeness & uncivil things. I will make a well-bred child out of you, better than any mother does in all the world."

"The language of motherhood expresses the intimate connection the Brüdergemeine felt with God through the Spirit. Each member of the Brüdergemeine is a child who "sits on the Mother’s lap, is received into the school, & is led through all classes; then it is under the special dispensation, under the motherly regimen of the Holy Spirit, who comforts, punishes, & kisses the heart, as a mother comforts, punishes, & kisses her own child."

"The heavenly Mother works individually since she knows the thoughts & weaknesses of her children & guides them in the path that is best for them. She directs their development in understanding & ability until their maturity & completion in death because "she has created the world with the Savior & now is [re-]making every child until it is a new creation, until it become one in the spirit with him, & she nurses & watches until it is grown."

"For Zinzendorf, the Christian community is modeled on the Holy Trinity, which is the original Gemeine & the original Kirche. This model was tarnished by Adam & Eve but has been restored by Jesus Christ & is marked by intimacy with one another & with God. All Christians are in the family of God. "Therefore nothing is better [than] to live in the family of our Husband, his Father, & our dear Mother." Children who grow up in this Gemeine of God should no more be able to doubt the reality of their membership than children who grow up in an earthly household can doubt that they were born into the family."

The Church's Prayer to the Holy Spirit (1759)

    1. Thou, who from the Father hast
    ‘Fore all Time proceeded,
    Spirit, by whom the Virgin Blest
    The Son here conceived!

    2. Since the Lamb of God, so red,
    Is his People’s Brother,
    And Christ’s God their Father’s made,
    Thou’rt the Church’s Mother.

    3. Of thy Name, O God, & Breath
    Grant us still the Nearness!
    That the Word of Jesu’s
    Shine to Souls with Clearness.

    4. Whom from Death-Sleep of the Fall
    Our dear Lord doth quicken,
    Fetch into thy Church-Ark all;
    Help their Abba speaking.

    5. As in greatest Things thy Will
    Meets with Execution:
    So in small shall it fulfil
    His Church-Constitution.

    6. Of the Righteousness of God
    Thro’ the Blood-Effusion,
    Of that daily Bread & Food
    Thou mak’st Distribution.

    7. MOTHER! all the Church’s Life
    Is the Father’s Kindness,
    Our Lord’s Patience with his Wife,
    And thy rich Forgiveness.

    8. We would fain not tempted be,
    With none thus distressed;
    Yet if one’s chastis’d by Thee,
    It to him be blessed.

    9. And till once the wicked Fiend
    Is at God’s Feet lying, (Ps. cx.1. Heb. ii.8.)
    Sleeps within thy Cradle screen’d
    The Church from his Trying.

    10. Amen, Ruach Elohim!
    Come in th’ Name of Jesus,
    Thy Children’s whole Sanhedrim

    Rule with Instinct gracious.

Monday, April 27, 2020

1791 American Mother & Child

1791 Charles Peale Polk (1767-1822) Mary Hawkworth Riddell and daughter Agnes.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Haube, a Simple Cap For 18tC Pennsylvania Moravian Sisters

Unknown Artist, Moravian Single Sister, Moravian Historical Society, Nazareth, PA

The head-covering worn is this painting is a Schwestern Haube, a sister's cap. A Haube is a simple, close-fitting cap worn by Moravian women, sometimes referred to as a Schneppel Haube because of the pointed peak in the middle of the forehead. A smaller version is sometimes still worn by servers during lovefeasts.

Moravian women adoped a uniform style of dress in Herrnhut in the 1730s. The Haube was the headcovering of their neighbors in Berthesdorf. By the early 19th Century, most Moravian women considered the Haube unflattering; and in 1815, many adopted regular English-style bonnets. In Pennsylvania, the Lititz Moravian Church Museum and Archives has a collection of Haubes.

Moravian women, whose chief duty was to their community & God, not to their family, husband, or self, worked jobs benefiting the larger community. They were freed from traditional familial duties.

The Moravians 1st came to British America during the colonial period. In 1735 they were part of General Oglethorpe’s philanthropic venture in Georgia. Their attempt to establish a community in Savannah did not succeed, but they did have a profound impact on the young John Wesley who had gone to Georgia during a personal spiritual crisis. Wesley was impressed that the Moravians remained calm during a storm that was panicking experienced sailors. He was amazed at people who did not fear death, & back in London he worshiped with Moravians writing that his “heart was strangely warmed.”

After the failure of the Georgia mission, the Moravians established a permanent presence in Pennsylvania in 1741, settling on the estate of evangalist George Whitefield. Moravian settlers purchased 500 acres to establish the settlement of Bethlehem in 1741. Soon they bought the 5,000 acres of the Barony of Nazareth from Whitefield’s manager, & the 2 communities of Bethlehem & Nazareth became closely linked in their agricultural & industrial economy.  Other settlement congregations were established in Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Maryland. They built the Pennsylvania communities of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Lititz, & Hope. They also established congregations in Philadelphia & on Staten Island in New York. All were considered frontier centers for the spread of the gospel, particularly in mission to the Native Americans. Bethlehem was the center of Moravian activity in colonial America.

Bishop Augustus Spangenberg led a party to survey a 100,000 acre tract of land in North Carolina, which came to be known as Wachau after an Austrian estate of Count Zinzendorf. The name, later anglicized to Wachovia, became the center of growth for the church in that region. Bethabara, Bethania & Salem (now Winston-Salem) were the 1st Moravian settlements in North Carolina. In 1857 the 2 American provinces, North & South, became largely independent & set about expansion. Bethlehem in Pennsylvania & Winston-Salem in North Carolina became the headquarters of the two provinces (North & South).

The facet of Moravian life that bound the community together like no other was their dedication to missionary work; the Moravians were the most active Protestant missionaries of the 18C, sending community members to the West Indies, South America, & as far as South Africa. By 1760, the Moravians had sent out 226 missionaries & baptized more than 3,000 converts, including American Natives. In North America the key undertaking for Moravian missionaries was to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. The Moravians viewed the natives as heathens in need of spiritual enlightenment & guidance.

One feature of Moravian community life was the Choir System. People
were separated into “choirs,” or groups, based on their age, gender, & marital status. It was believed that individuals of like age & gender were best prepared & able to encourage each other’s religious growth. Members of the same choir ate, worked, worshiped, slept in dormitories, & attended school together. This communal living arrangement was intended to strengthen the unity of the society as members had to rely on choir-mates for support rather than their siblings or parents. The names of the choirs reflected the sex, age & marital status of those in the choir, such as the “Older Boys’ Choir,” ages 12-19 or the “Single Sister’s Choir,” age 19 until marriage.

All work performed by the Moravians during the pre-Revolutionary War years operated under a system known as the “General Economy,” in which all goods or money produced was considered the property of the community, not the individual. Under this system there was no private wealth or housing, nor any privately owned businesses. Every member’s contribution was collectively pooled & in exchange, necessities such as food, shelter & clothing were provided.

Marie Minier, a Single Sister in the Bethlehem community, praised the General
Economy in 1750 stating that, “For 12 years now I have enjoyed the care [of the General Economy] & eaten from one bread & been clothed, all of which to this hour has been great and of importance to me. I . . . accept things the way the Brethren do things, for it is a wonder to me daily that He has maintained so large a community, & we cannot say that we have ever gone without.” For single women like Marie Minier, the General Economy system afforded them relative security & independence; single women who chose not to marry did not need to rely on a father or brother for financial support, nor worry about becoming a financial burden. In other parts of 18C British America women who did not marry usually would have been socially & economically excluded, dependent on their fathers or male family members.

Yet by the 1760s, the system of communal property began to wear on the younger generations of ambitious Moravians who saw that in other communities hard work was rewarded with personal financial gain. In 1762, the General Economy was abolished in favor of self-owned & operated small businesses & private family homes.

To learn about the lives of 18C Moravian women see:

Faull, Katharine. Moravian Women's Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Smaby, Beverly Prior. "Female Piety Among 18th-Century Moravians." Pennsylvania History 64 (1997): 151-167.

Wachovia Historical Society, Winston-Salem, North Carolina & Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina 1750 Johann Valentine Haidt (1700-1780). Women portrayed as separate but sharing power at the Moravian Synod at Herrnhut.& "Forming the Single Sisters' Choir in Bethlehem." The Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 28 (1994): 1-14

Sommer, Elisabeth W. Serving Two Masters: Moravian Brethren in Germany & North Carolina, 1727-1801. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2000.

Vogt, Peter. "A Voice for Themselves: Women as Participants in Congregational Discourse in the 18th-Century Moravian Movement." In Women Preachers and Prophets through Two Millennia of Christianity, edited by Beverly Mayne Kienzle and Pamela J. Walker, 227-247. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

1799 American Mother & Child

1799 Artist Bouche. (in Baltimore in 1795). Ann Ogle (Mrs. John Tayloe III) and daughters Rebecca and Henrietta.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Moravian Women during the 18C Century

"A remarkable painting by Johann Valentin Haidt tells us a great deal about the roles of Moravian women during Zinzendorf's time. It depicts a session of the Moravian synod held at Herrnhut in 1750. In the center of the painting, men & women members of synod are gathered around a table, all major leaders in the Moravian Church, including the women. Countess Erdmuthe Dorothea von Zinzendorf, Zinzendorf's first wife, is shown at the table, for instance. After 1732 she shouldered the administration of Zinzendorf's financial affairs, which at that time were closely tied to the finances for the Moravian Church. Anna Nitschmann is shown on the left of the Countess. In 1730 she became the Chief Eldress for all women in the Church, & in 1746 she was named Mother of the entire Moravian Church. Anna Johanna Pietsch, to the left of Anna Nietschmann, became the General Eldress for all Single Sisters in 1747. Since eighteenth century European women did not generally hold positions of religious leadership, women leaders come as a surprise, but they were just one part of a well developed system of female leadership among Moravians. Women were members of councils at every level of Moravian society around the world, & in these governing bodies they participated actively in discussions & decisions. Women were also active spiritual leaders: they served as acolytes; they were ordained as deaconesses, eldresses, & for a brief moment, even as presbyters (ministers); as deaconesses & eldresses, they led worship & preached in services for their own choirs; a few Moravian woman ordained deaconesses & female presbyters, a function usually reserved for bishops, although women never officially assumed that office.

"It was Zinzendorf who made possible the culture in which women became so unusually prominent, but it is important to place his role in perspective. His views about society were in many ways typical of the eighteenth century. For Zinzendorf, human beings were not equal to each other except before the Savior, & the Moravian world he created made extensive use of hierarchy. The painting by Haidt makes this clear. Zinzendorf & the three people on either side of him sat in chairs with higher, wider backs than others at the table. Zinzendorf's was widest of all. And even though women were included at the table, it is clear that men maintained their dominance over women. Of the twenty-four people at the center table, only six were women, & Zinzendorf sat at the head of the table, his wife at his left - a symbol of his leading role in the Church & her position, important but subordinate to his. However, Zinzendorf went far enough in encouraging untraditional roles for women to cause substantial discomfort inside the Moravian Church & bitter criticism outside of it.

"Leadership roles for women did not result from a concern for gender equality. Rather, they were a byproduct of the separation of the sexes in Moravian settlements. In Zinzendorf's view, males & females of various ages had different religious needs. Beginning in the 1730s, Moravians formed "choirs" which divided their members into groups for Little Boys, Little Girls, Older Boys, Older Girls, Single Brothers, Single Sisters, Married Brothers, Married Sisters, Widowers, & Widows. Worship services for each of the choirs emphasized aspects of the Savior's life which best spoke to that choir. Children, for instance, learned about Jesus as a child. Single Brothers focused on Jesus as a single man. The Sisters' & Older Girls' Choirs emphasized Jesus as spiritual husband & Virgin Mary as the medium through which Christ became human. Experience showed that choir members were very effective at encouraging spiritual growth in each other, as Anna Nitschmann did in her 1730 covenant with Single Sisters in Herrnhut. It followed that leadership should also come from within each choir, even if their members were women.

"Another reason for female leadership was the intimacy required between ministers & believers for spiritual growth. To prevent any improper relationships from developing, Zinzendorf arranged that men should serve as spiritual leaders for men's choirs & women for women's. In mission settlements like Bethlehem, members of each choir lived & worked together in separate quarters, an organization that required some choir leaders to carry secular responsibility as well. These men & women served not only as spiritual & secular leaders within their own choirs, they also represented their choirs on local governing councils. The fact that children were raised in communal choir houses in these settlements meant that even Married Sisters had time to fill leadership roles.

"Although it was Zinzendorf who created the environment that supported female leadership, women in the Church embraced it enthusiastically. Women respected & loved their leaders, & the leaders themselves frequently showed how much they valued their opportunity to carry major responsibilities. Leaders of Single Sisters, for instance, were often reluctant to marry & give up their roles, & prominent Widows mourned not only the passing of their husbands, but the loss of leadership positions they had held with their husbands. Without Zinzendorf's support, women could not have held these positions, but neither could Zinzendorf have successfully implemented leadership by women without their enthusiastic participation.

"Beyond the offices they held, women served Moravian communities as models of how to be good Christians. Zinzendorf thought women were less likely than men to be "dry" or spiritually barren & more likely to feel joy & love in their relation to the Savior. In addition, the subordination required of women in society made it easier for them to be properly submissive to the Savior. By observing women, men could learn how to be submissive believers, too.

"Not all of Zinzendorf's opinions about women were positive. He was clearly ambivalent about the nature of women. Taking examples from the Old Testament & from his own experience, he found that women were likely to have the original sin of deceptiveness. Men, he thought, also had an original sin, namely lust, but men's was in his view less harmful than women's. Lust was so obviously sinful that it would encourage men to seek the help of the Savior, whereas women's deceptiveness might deceive even themselves into thinking they were good.

"Zinzendorf also thought that women were less likely than men to have the ability to govern well. However, this implied that some women could govern effectively, a radical thought for most Europeans in the eighteenth century. Zinzendorf was surrounded by women who amply demonstrated their administrative talent: Henriette Catharine von Gersdorf (his grandmother), Erdmuthe Dorothea von Zinzendorf (his first wife), and Anna Nitschmann (who worked closely with him as a church leader & became his second wife), to name just a few.

"Even though Zinzendorf's advocacy of women's leadership roles was based soley on religious necessity, it was apparently threatening to others. Outside the Moravian Church, critics published angry polemics against him. Inside the Church, his policies must also have been perceived as problematic. While Zinzendorf lived, there was little written evidence of criticism by Moravians, but with surprising speed after his death in 1760, the new Moravian leaders dismantled the leadership roles of women & the religious practice that helped support it. In the four General Synods held between 1764 & 1782, many changes were made to bring Moravian policies & doctrine into line with that of other Protestants. In the process, women's roles were redefined & greatly limited. Members of the 1764 synod prohibited women from holding any "general" offices with authority over the entire Moravian Church, as Anna Nitschmann had done. In the new directorship established by this synod, women were to be no more than "helpers & advisors." This same synod decided that women's choirs needed male oversight in secular matters. For that purpose, the office of Curator was established. After the synod of 1775, only Bishops could ordain deaconesses & women were even prohibited from assisting in ordinations. Any special religious emphasis for women was also suppressed. In 1783 church leaders scolded the Single Sisters for promoting the Incarnation in their services, saying that the essential point was the "Savior's blood & death" & that the Incarnation belonged to the sanctification of everyone, not just the Single Sisters.

"The fact that efforts to curtail female leadership & women's religious practice began so soon after Zinzendorf's death shows how much he had done to encourage both while he lived. Even his ambivalence towards women supported their leading roles. Because he agreed with the basic eighteenth century view that men must remain superior to women, his reasons why some Moravian women had to govern carried more weight. This same ambivalence meant that his successors could buttress their limitations of women's roles with some of Zinzendorf's own statements, but if Zinzendorf could have visited Moravian settlements thirty years after his death, no doubt he would have regretted the loss of female leadership. After all, he had not only created it, but consistently defended it during his lifetime."

Further Reading
Smaby, Beverly."Female Piety Among Eighteenth Century Moravians." Pennsylvania History 64 (1997): 151-167.

Smaby, Beverly. "Forming the Single Sisters' Choir in Bethlehem." The Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 28 (1994): 1-14.

Vogt, Peter. "A Voice for Themselves: Women as Participants in Congregational Discourse in the Eighteenth-Century Moravian Movement." In Women Preachers & Prophets through Two Millennia of Christianity, edited by Beverly Mayne Kienzle & Pamela J. Walker, 227-247. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. (In print)

An excellent translated collection of Moravian women's autobiographical memoirs is published in:
Faull, Katharine. Moravian Women's Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

1796 American Mother & Child

1796 Ralph Earl (1751-1801) Annie McClellan Lovett and Daughter

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf & American Moravian Men & Women

"Nicholas Ludwig, Count Zinzendorf, was born in Dresden in 1700. He was very much a part of the Pietist movement in Germany, which emphasized personal piety & an emotional component to the religious life. This was in contrast to the state Lutheran Church of the day, which had grown to symbolize a largely intellectual faith centered on belief in specific doctrines. He believed in "heart religion," a personal salvation built on the individual's spiritual relationship with Christ.
Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf 1700-1760

"Zinzendorf was born into one of the most noble families of Europe. His father died when he was an infant, & he was raised at Gros Hennersdorf, the castle of his influential Pitetistic grandmother. Stories abound of his deep faith during childhood. As a young man he struggled with his desire to study for the ministry & the expectation that he would fulfill his hereditary role as a Count. As a teenager at Halle Academy, he & several other young nobles formed a secret society, The Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed. The stated purpose of this order was that the members would use their position & influence to spread the Gospel. As an adult, Zinzendorf later reactivated this adolescent society, & many influential leades of Europe ended up joining the group. A few included the King of Denmark, the Archbishop of Canterbury, & the Archbishop of Paris.

"Zinzendorf was one of the most controversial figures of the early 18C. The crowned heads of Europe & religious leaders of both Europe & America all knew him -- & either loved him or hated him.
Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf 1700-1760

"During his Grand Tour (a rite of passage for young aristocrats) Nicolas visited an art museum in Dusseldorf where he saw a Domenico Feti painting titled Ecce Homo, "Behold the Man." It portrayed the crucified Christ with the legend, "This have I done for you - Now what will you do for me?" The young count as profoundly moved & appears to have had an almost mystical experience while looking at the painting, feeling as if Christ himself was speaking those word to his heart. He vowed that day to dedicate his life to service to Christ.

"Zinzendorf married Erdmuth Dorothea von Reuss, a cousin, & assumed his duties as a young noble in the courst of King August the Strong. In 1722, he was approached by a group of Moravians to request permission to live on his lands. He granted their request, & a small band crossed the border from Moravia to settle in a town they called Herrnhut, or "the Lord's Watch." Zinzendorf was intrigued by the story of the Moravians, & began to read about the early Unity at the library in Dresden. His tenants went through a period of serious division, & it was then in 1727 that Zinzendorf left public life to spend all his time at his Berthelsdorf estate working with the troubled Moravians. Largely due to his leadership in daily Bible studies, the group came to formulate a unique document, known as the "Brotherly Agreement," which set forth basic tenets of Christian behavior. Residents of Herrnhut were required to sign a pledge to abide by these Biblical principals. There followed an intense & powerful experience of renewal, often described as the "Moravian Pentecost." During a communion service at Berthelsdorf, the entire congregation felt a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, & felt their previous differences swept away. This experience began the Moravian renewal, & led to the beginning of the Protestant World Mission movement.
Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf 1700-1760

"In 1731, while attending the coronation of Christian VI in Copenhagen, the young Count met a converted slave from the West Indies, Anthony Ulrich. Anthony's tale of his people's plight moved Zinzendorf, who brought him back to Herrnhut. As a result, two young men, Leonard Dober & David Nitchmann, were sent to St. Thomas to live among the slaves & preach the Gospel. This was the first organized Protestant mission work, & grew rapidly to Africa, America, Russia, & other parts of the world. By the end of Zinzendorf's life there were active missions from Greenland to South Africa, literally from one end of the earth to the other. Though the Baptist missionary William Carey is often refered to as the "Father of Modern Missions," he himself would credit Zinzendorf with that role, for he often referred to the model of the earlier Moravians in his journal.

"Zinzendorf himself visited St. Thomas, & later visited America. There he sought to unify the German Protestants of Pennsylvania, even proposing a sort of "council of churches" where all would preserve their unique denominational practices, but would work in cooperation rather than competition. He founded the town of Bethlehem, where his daughter Benigna organized the school which would become Moravian College. His overwhelming interest in the colonies involved evangelising the native Americans, & he traveled into the wilderness with Indian agent Conrad Weiser to meet with the chieftains of several tribes & clans. As far as we have been able to identify, he is the only European noble to have gone out to meet the native American leaders in this manner.
Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf 1700-1760

"Zinzendorf's theology was extraordinarily Christ-centered & innovative. It focussed intensely on the personal experience of a relationship with Christ, & an emotional experience of salvation rather than simply an intellectual assent to certain principles. Dr David Schattschneider, Dean of Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, PA, says that it is probably the fact that Zinzendorf did not attend seminary that allowed his thinking could be so creative. Zinzendorf cast the Trinity & the believers in terms of a family, referring often to the Holy Spirit as "mother." He accorded women a much more substantial role in church life than was normal for the eighteenth century, & suffered great criticism as a result. He allowed women to preach, to hold office, & to be ordained. Anna Nitschmann, the leader of the Single Sisters & later Zinzendorf's second wife, seems to have functioned as a bishop among the women.

"But all Zinzendorf's thinking also focused on missionary outreach & renewal. He envisioned the Moravians not as a separate denomination, but as a dynamic renewal society which would serve to revitalize existing denominations & help create new work in mission areas. There are numerous churches in Pennsylvania where Moravians would start a church & school for the settlers & native Americans, & then turn it over to the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church, or whatever denomination they perceived to be the strongest in that area.

"Zinzendorf came to know John & Charles Wesley, who had been converted through their contact with the Moravians. The Wesleys later had a split with Zinzendorf & the Moravians ove theological issues, & founded the Methodist Church; but both, especially Charles, retained warm affection for the Moravians throughout their lives.  Zinzendorf died in 1760 at Herrnhut."

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

1773 American Mother & Child

1773 Matthew Pratt (1734-1805). Elizabeth Gay (Mrs. Thomas Bolling) with twins Sarah & Ann.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

1757 American Mother & Child

1757 John Hesselius Mrs Matthew Tiglman Anna Lloyd & dau Anna Maria (Mrs. Matthew Tiglman.)

Artist John Hesselius (1728-1778) was one of the major American-born artists working in the Middle Colonies and the South in the third quarter of the 18C. The son of Gustavus Hesselius (1682-1755), a Swedish portrait painter who came to America in 1711.  His father was Gustavus Hesselius painted mostly in Maryland & Pennsylvania. John was probably born in Philadelphia. His earliest signed work is dated 1750.  It seems likely that Gustavus Hesselius was John Hesselius’s first instructor. John Hesselius also studied with Robert Feke & his early portraits are stylistically more similar to Feke’s. Hesselius latest signed work dates to 1777.

During his career, Hesselius traveled extensively in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, & possibly in New Jersey. His work seems to have been confined to portraits. All known examples are in oil on canvas, & there is little reason to suspect that he deviated from this practice. He worked exclusively in the late English Baroque & English Rococo traditions of painting, & his style shows the influence of Robert Feke & John Wollaston more strongly than that of his father.

Hesselius married Mary Young Woodward, the widow of Henry Woodward, in 1763, & after that date his energies were divided between his art & the management of his plantation near Annapolis, Maryland. He was also active in the religious affairs of St. Anne’s Parish in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. His interests appear to have been many, & as an artist & landowner he associated with most of the leading citizens of the colony. Hesselius contributed to American painting, & he extended & modified the English tradition of painting in the Colonies.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Baptists in the 17C & 18C Carolinas - Hundreds of Converts

Paul Revere Print of Submersion Baptism

The Palmer Movement of Southern Free Will Baptists, 

Southern Free Will Baptists have generally traced their ancestry back to the ministry of Paul Palmer, who in 1727 established the first known Free Will Baptist church in America in Chowan County, North Carolina.  Very little is known about Palmer except that he organized North Carolina's 1st Baptist Church in 1727 in what is now Shiloh. A loose network of Baptist churches spread throughout North Carolina, numbering some 40 churches by the time of the American Revolution. In 1812, these mostly Southern churches organized into the Free Will Baptists, so called because of their belief that Jesus died so that all people, not just the elect, might come to salvation. Thus the organization of the Free Will Baptists marks an important moment in the evolution of Baptist theology which, up until then, had been strongly Calvinist.

The Earliest General Baptists in North Carolina
America’s first Free Will Baptists were called, like their English brethren, General Baptists. General stood for “general atonement,” their strong belief in the universality of the atonement—that Christ died for all men—& its attending doctrines. Both the General Baptists in England & America were nicknamed “Freewillers,” & the name caught on & began to be officially used by southern Free Will Baptists in the late 1700s. Though there were Baptists in North Carolina as early as 1685, the 1st organized church was not begun until around 1727, under the ministry of Paul Palmer. Palmer married into an English General Baptist family. Palmer’s father-in-law, Benjamin Laker, had been an active General Baptist layman who had apparently established an informal gathering of General Baptists in the Perquimans Precinct of North Carolina.

Benjamin Laker
Laker had emigrated to Carolina from England, where he had been an active General Baptist who signed the 1663 edition of the 1660 English General Baptist Confession of Faith. In North Carolina, Laker, deputy to one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, member of the governor's Council, judge, and Baptist leader, was in 1664 a resident of Betchworth Parish, Surrey County, England, and a member of the family of that name living in southern Surrey County in the vicinity of the towns of Guildford, Dorking, and Reigate. As a  local political leader & prosperous farmer, Laker had lived in Perquimans as early as 1685. It is known from Laker’s will that he owned many English General Baptist books. Among the books he left in his will was a book called Christianismus Primitivus. This was the standard doctrinal text for the English General Baptists & was written by Thomas Grantham, the foremost leader of the English General Baptists in the 1600s.

Grantham’s book outlined the doctrine of the English General Baptists, who taught, among other things, that Christ died for the sins of all mankind; that, though the sin of Adam had been imputed to man, he could be set free & saved by the righteousness of Jesus Christ which could be obtained by faith alone; that a saved person could renounce his faith in Christ & hence come out of union with Christ, never to be redeemed again; that believer’s baptism was the only way to constitute a local church; that local churches should be self-governing; that God granted everyone liberty of conscience, & thus the king should allow every individual the freedom to practice his religion without fear of persecution & that individual Christians had the right to be involved in government & to keep & bear arms for the protection of family & freedom. These doctrines had been stated in the 1660 English General Baptist Confession of Faith, which was used by Laker & Palmer, & in turn the Southern Free Will Baptists until 1812, when it was condensed into the 1812 Former Articles.

There seem to be no records to support the presence of an organized General Baptist church in North Carolina before 1727 [the year Palmer’s church was organized], but Laker’s important social & political status would have given him a unique opportunity to spread his General Baptist faith. When Paul Palmer began to preach in 1726, he found an eager audience for his General Baptist doctrine. Baptist churches in North Carolina before 1755 were of the General Baptist persuasion. 

Paul Palmer & His Followers
Little is known about the early life of Paul Palmer.  In the late spring of 1717, Palmer was living in York County, Virginia, but soon moved to North Carolina. In March 1719, Palmer married a 33-year-old woman, who was already twice widowed, Joanna Taylor Jeffreys Peterson. Mrs. Peterson was a woman of some prominence, the step-daughter of the General Baptist Benjamin Lake. By 1720, Laker had settled in Perquimans Precinct, where by 1729, he had an estate of 964 acres. Palmer became a respected landowner & political figure in Perquimans Precinct. When he arrived in Carolina in 1719, he joined the local Quaker meeting. However, he remained a Quaker only until 1722, when he asked for a certificate of dismissal from the meeting. His influence allowed him a hearing to proclaim his General Baptist doctrine, & he began evangelistic work in 1726. In 1727, he established a General Baptist Church in Chowan County.

By October, 1729, a 2nd congregation had been started & a young man named William Burgess was ordained to lead it. That same month, North Carolina's governor complained to the Anglican bishop of London about Palmer’s nefarious activities. Palmer, he said, was holding daily meetings & making hundreds of converts all over the area. As a result of Palmer’s activity the Baptists were flourishing. The governor pleaded that he was powerless to prevent this tide of religious enthusiasm which was sweeping the province as a result of Palmer’s preaching.

A few early followers were to be of great importance to the young American Free Will Baptist movement. William Sojourner, Josiah Hart, & Joseph Parker were instrumental in establishing & pastoring the first few churches. Sojourner (also spelled “Surginer”) was an English General Baptist from Virginia who moved to North Carolina in 1742, & became involved in the Palmer work. Hart, a physician, was greatly influenced by Sojourner & became a successful evangelist for the early Free Will Baptists, planting churches in Craven & Beaufort counties in North Carolina. 

Joseph Parker was born into a General Baptist family in 1705. In 1730, Parker & his wife, Sarah, went into Indian Territory in North Carolina to establish General Baptist works. These early ministers & their followers labored at a time when it was difficult to be a Baptist dissenter from the Anglican (Episcopal) Church, the established church. 

Their work was made easier by the Act of Toleration. A 1738 court document states: Permission is hereby granted to Paul Palmer of Edenton, a Protestant minister, to teach or preach the Word of God in any part of the said province (he having qualified himself as such) pursuant to an Act of Parliament made in the first year of King William & Queen Mary entitled an “Act of Tolerating Protestant Dissenters.”

In a span of 25 years, these men established 20 or more General Baptist churches, & the movement grew rapidly. Palmer eventually learned of other Free Will Baptist churches beyond North Carolina & Virginia, & determined to avail himself of them. He decided to visit the New England churches in person. He seems to have visited churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, & Rhode Island. Upon his return, he visited churches in New Jersey & perhaps Virginia & Maryland too.

The Coming of the Calvinists
This growth, however, would not last long. In the 1750s, the Calvinists intruded. The Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists, also called “New Lights,” felt that the General Baptists needed reforming, which basically meant that they needed to be converted from Arminianism to Calvinism. These Calvinistic Baptists criticized the Free Will Baptists for not requiring what they called an “experience of grace” as a basis for baptism & church membership. What they meant by this was not simply conversion or a personal experience of the grace of God in one’s life, but rather a “long & often ridiculous account of how one came to know he was elected to grace & was one of the sheep.” The General Baptists, on the other hand, simply required repentance & faith in Christ as the only requirement for baptism & membership in the church. In addition to this, the Calvinists claimed that the General Baptist churches were worldly & lax in their discipline. There is no way, however, to know whether this was the case or not. Old-fashioned strict Calvinists held such a low view of Arminianism that they tended to associate it with heresy or unorthodox doctrine.

Thus the Calvinistic Particular Baptists took it upon themselves to raid these early General Baptists & attempt to proselytize as many of the ministers & members to Calvinism as they could. While they were successful in converting a good many of the ministers to Calvinism, they had less success with the actual members of these early Free Will Baptist churches. A case in point is the Pasquotank Church, which had around 200 members before it was reorganized as a Calvinist Baptist church & only 12 members after. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

1791 American Mother & Child

1791 Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Mrs. William Moseley and Son Charles.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Wealthy Widow in a brown calico Elizabeth Peck Perkins 1736-1807 helps Boston Catholics

Elizabeth Peck Perkins (1736-1807), was a Boston widow, businesswoman, & philanthropist. She was the oldest child of English immigrants Elizabeth & Thomas Handasyd Peck. Her father became a successful fur trader & hatter; an outspoken Whig; & a friend of John Murray, the founder of Universalism in America.

When she was 18, Elizabeth married James Perkins (1733-1773), an employee of her father’s countinghouse who later became a general-store merchant. Unfortunately, after less than 20 years of marriage, Perkins died leaving his wife with 8 children to feed & clothe & educate, a 9th died as an infant.

Admired for her ability to support her large family after husband's death, established "grossary shop" business (1773), selling chinaware, glass, wine, and other imported goods; inherited real estate from parents' deaths (late 1770s). plus a wide variety of imported items. 

But the American Revolution interrupted both her family & her business. Shortly before the battle of Bunker Hill, she decided it would be safer for her children, if they all moved to Barnstable, Massachusettes, where the family lived temporarily with an old family friend.

Following the British evacuation the next spring, she returned to Boston to reopen her business. But the years of the Revolution brought personal tragedies as well war. Her father died in 1777, & her mother a little over a year later.

Now Elizabeth was alone with her children. She was the sole surviving child of her parents; however, and she came into a respectable inheritance in Boston real estate but continued to have only a modest income.  Elizabeth was shrewd with her father's property; and after his death, she increased the value of his estate a hundred fold. 

Elizabeth Peck Perkins moved her family into her father's Boston house stood in Merchants Row, about midway between State Street and Chatham Street.  In 1751, when Gillam Phillips conveyed this property to Thomas Handasyd Peck, the father of Elizabeth (Peck) Perkins, it had a frontage of forty feet on Merchants Row and of 23 & 1/2 feet on Butler's Row.

When she returned to Boston, she reopened her business and took over her husband’s partnerships with other merchants. She became part owner of the ship the “Beaver” and was soon receiving letters from Holland addressed to Mr. Elizabeth Perkins, or Captain Perkins.

By 1780, with her children growing toward adulthood, she began her civic involvement by donating $1,000 to support the Continental Army. Her 3 sons went to work at an early age and became leading maritime merchants in the 1790s. The two eldest, James (b 1761) & Thomas Handasyd (b 1764), formed the firm of J. & T.H. Perkins; the youngest, Samuel (b 1767), joined in business with his father-in-law, Stephen Higginson.

Her boys went into business. Jim began in business about 1782, at Cape François on the island of Santo Domingo (Haiti), and his brothers Tom and Sam joined him as soon as they came of age. Her daughters married well.  Elizabeth married Russell Sturgis, a fur merchant; Ann married Robert Cushing, Captain of the Beaver; Mary married Benjamin Abbot, headmaster of Exeter Academy; Esther married Thomas Doubleday, and after he died, Josiah Sturgis (Russell’s brother), and Margaret married Ralph Bennet Forbes who entered the Perkins family business.

Elizabeth invested in the ships her sons would use for trade which included slaves and opium. Following their mother's lead, all of her sons became well known for their philanthropy & civic interest. Thomas, perhaps the most famous of the great China trade merchants of the 19th century, was a benefactor of the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Boston Athenaeum, and the Perkins School for the Blind (which bears his name).

With her children financially independent, Elizabeth Perkins turned her energy to civic & philanthropic endeavors. As her father had taught her, she was sympathetic to Universalist doctrines, refusing to believe in damnation. She was accepting of a variety of religions including that of Jean de Cheverus, the first Roman Catholic bishop in Boston, to whom she offered a building she owned on School Street in which he could conduct services, as she contributed to his work among the poor.

She was deeply concerned with the mental illness she saw about her. In 1800, she helped found the Boston Female Asylum, the 1st charitable institution in Boston established by women. She served the asylum as a director & supported it financially both during her lifetime & in her will. When she died, the officers of the Boston Female Asylum wore badges of mourning for seventy-one days, corresponding to the number of years she had lived.

Elizabeth Peck Perkins continued to own considerable real estate in the Boston business district throughout her life. Until her death in 1807, she lived with the simplicity she had adopted during the years she was a single mother raising 8 children. She did most of her own housework wearing plain dresses of brown calico in the morning & changing to brown silk in the afternoon, when civic leaders & visitors might call requesting her financial assistance with another charitable endeavor.

A granddaughter remembered her as a stern, reserved woman of impressive dignity & strength of character, honored & respected by her children & somewhat feared by her grandchildren.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

1790 American Mother & Child

1790 Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Abigail Starr (Mrs. William Taylor) and Son Daniel.

Monday, April 13, 2020

1790 American Mother & Child

1790 Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Mary Floyd (Mrs. Benjamin Tallmadge) with Son Henry Floyd and Daughter Maria Jones.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Abigail Smith Adams 1744-1818 At Home, Often Without Husband John

Abigail Smith was born on November 11, 1744, in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the 2nd child of Elizabeth Quincy Smith & the Reverend William Smith. Her father was pastor of Weymouth's North Parish Congregational Church.  Carrying out the practical aspects of their religion, Abigail accompanied her mother visiting the sick & distributing food, clothing, & firewood to needy families. Young Abigail educated herself in her father's library.
Abigail Adams (1744-1818)  by Gilbert Stuart (American artist, 1755-1828)

When she was 18, Abigail met John Adams, a young lawyer from nearby Braintree. Even during their 2 year courtship, the young couple spent long periods apart & relied upon writing letters to keep in touch. This pattern would continue throughout their marriage.  On October 25, 1764, the young newlyweds moved into the small house John had inherited from his father in Braintree.   Abigail managed the family's finances & household, as John began to ride the court circuit (traveling from one district to another) building his law career.  On July 14, 1765,  John & Abigail's 1st child, Abigail, was born followed by son John Quincy Adams, Susanna (who died just after her 1st year), Charles, & Thomas Boylston.  The growing family continued to live on John's small farm at Braintree or in Boston, as his practice expanded. Abigail looked after family & home; while John went traveling as circuit judge. "Alas!" she wrote in the snowy December of 1773, "How many snow banks divide thee and me...."

To spend more time with his family, John Adams decided to move them to Boston, because much of his work was there. But even in Boston, long separations kept Abigail from her husband, while he served the country they loved, as delegate to the Continental Congress, envoy abroad, & elected officer under the Constitution. Her letters detail her life in times of revolution. They tell of a woman who stayed at home to struggle with wartime shortages & inflation; to run a farm with a minimum of help; to teach 4 children, when formal education was interrupted. They tell of her loneliness without her "dearest Friend."

The Boston Massacre occurred on March 5, 1770. At the risk of his own popularity & career, John Adams chose to defend 8 British soldiers & their captain, accused of murdering 5 Americans.  Although John was an ardent patriot & favored independence, he felt the soldiers had acted properly & been provoked into firing by an unruly mob. Also, he felt it was important to prove to the world that the colonists were not under mob rule, lacking direction & principles, & that all men were entitled to due process of law. Most Americans, driven by emotion, were livid with Adams for defending the hated "redcoats," but throughout the ordeal Abigail supported her husband's decision. In the end, Adams was proved correct, as all 9 of the men were acquitted of the murder charges. The verdict helped diffuse the immediate crisis.
1798 Watercolor of the Old House of John & Abigail Adams by E. Malcom  The Old House, built in 1731, became the residence of the Adams family for 4 generations from 1788 to 1927.

In 1774, John traveled to Philadelphia as a delegate to the First Continental Congress; where the gentlemen agreed to form a government independent of Great Britain. Abigail remained in Braintree to manage the farm & educate the children. Again, letter writing was the only way the Adams could communicate with each other. Their correspondence took on even greater meaning, for Abigail reported to her husband about the British & American military confrontations around Boston. Abigail took her son John Quincy to the top of Penn's Hill near their farm to witness the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.

Not all Americans shared the concept of an independent American nation.  Abigail argued, "A people may let a king fall, yet still remain a people: but if a king lets his people slip from him, he is no longer a king. And this is most certainly our case, why not proclaim to the world in decisive terms your own independence?" In June 1776, John was appointed to a committee of 5 men to prepare a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.
1820 Sketch of the Mansion by Abigail Adams Smith who lived with her grandfather John Adams in the Old House from 1818-1829

Abigail's vision of independence was broader than that of the delegates. She believed all people, & both sexes, should be granted equal rights. In a letter to John she wrote, "I wish most sincerely that there was not a slave in the province. It always seemed to me to fight ourselves for what we are robbing the Negroes of, who have as good a right to freedom as we have."  Later Abigail added that John & his fellow delegates should "remember the ladies, & be more generous & favorable to them than your ancestors," when they enact new law. Her views were far too progressive for the delegates of the Continental Congress, including John Adams. 

John soon was appointed president of the Board of War & turned to Abigail for advice on carrying out his job.  Throughout his career, Adams had few confidants. Thus Abigail advised her husband, & John wrote his wife, "I want to hear you think or see your thoughts."
1828 A drawing of The Adams Seat in Quincy by Mrs. George Whitney

In 1778,  John Adams was sent to Paris to negotiate an alliance with France. He remained in Europe from 1778 to 1787, through a succession of different appointments, except for a 3 month period at home; during which time he drafted the Massachusetts Constitution.  Separated from her husband by the Atlantic Ocean, Abigail continued to keep their farm running, paid their bills, & served as teacher to their children. She focused on encouraging the abilities of her son John Quincy, who eventually joined his father in Europe. She wrote to her son, "These are times in which a genius would wish to live. . . . Great necessities call out great virtues."
John Adams by William Joseph Williams, C. 1797.

In 1784, with independence from Great Britain at last secure, Abigail sailed to Europe to join her husband & son. Abigail spent 4 years in France & England, while her husband served as U.S. minister to Great Britain. As the wife of a diplomat, she met & entertained many people in Paris & London. While never at home in these unfamiliar settings, Abigail did her best to enjoy the people & places of both countries. However, Abigail was pleased, when the time came to return home to Braintree in 1788.
1846 Woodcut of the Residence of John Quincy Adams

The next year, John Adams was elected the 1st vice president of the United States. During the course of the next 12 years as John Adams served 2 terms as vice president (1789-1797) & 1 term as president (1797-1801), he & Abigail moved back & forth between Braintree (the "Old House") & the successive political capitals of the United States: New York, Philadelphia, & then, briefly, into the unfinished White House in Washington, D.C.
Portrait of John Adams by William Winstanley, 1798.

Abigail fought bouts of rheumatism or some autoimmune disease that forced her frequently to retreat to the peace of Braintree recover. After 1791, poor health forced her to spend as much time as possible in Quincy. Illness found her resolute; as she once declared, she would "not forget the blessings which sweeten life."  In 1796, John Adams was elected to succeed George Washington as president of the United States.  Parties were forming. John Adams faced dissent in his cabinet & the vice president, Thomas Jefferson, was head of the opposition party. John realized the problems he faced & wrote to his wife, who was in Quincy recovering from a rheumatic bout, that "I never wanted your advice & assistance more in my life."  Abigail rushed to her husband's side & maintained a grueling schedule to perform all her duties as first lady. She entertained guests & visited people in support of her husband.
1849 Daguerreotype of the Old House of John & Abigail Adams by John Adams Whipple

Meanwhile, Great Britain was at war with France, & popular opinion held that America should jump in to aid Great Britain, especially after France demanded bribes. The president felt that war would weaken the United States & decided on an unpopular neutrality. During this time many of Adams' opponents used the press to criticize his policies. Abigail was often referred to as "Mrs. President," for it was widely thought, that the president's decisions were heavily influenced by his wife. In truth, Abigail disagreed with her husband's stand of neutrality; but people believed she was setting his policies, & this weakened John Adams politically.
1849 Painting of the Old House of John & Abigail Adams by G. Frankenstein

In 1798, with John Adams' approval, Congress passed the Alien & Sedition Acts, which were aimed at restricting foreign influence over the United States. But the acts proved very unpopular, with Thomas Jefferson & James Madison leading the protest against them. Adams' support of these acts further undermined his popular support, already suffering from his courageous but unpopular stand on war with France.  He was not elected to a 2nd term as president in 1800.
 1852 View of the Adams Mansion at Quincy by Mallory, C. 1852 from “Gleasons’ Pictorial Drawing Room Companion” Volume 3, August 21, 1852.

In March 1801, John & Abigail retired to Quincy. During her years there, Abigail occupied herself with improving her home & entertaining visiting family. She saw their son John Qunicy Adams distinguish himself as a U.S. senator, minister to Russia, & secretary of state. In October 1818, Abigail contracted typhoid fever. Surrounded by family members, she died on October 28. John Adams wrote, "I wish I could lay down beside her & die too."
John Adams. Painting by Samuel Morse.

See National Park Service Adams House