Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

“that phenomenon of Nature; a blaizing ocean”

ABIGAIL ADAMS continues her description of details of her voyage to England for her sister MARY CRANCH.

If I did not write every day, I should lose the days of the month, and of the week, confined all day . . . on account of the weather; which is foggy, misty, and wet. You can hardly judge how urksome this confinement is; when the whole ship is at our Service; it is little better than a prison; we Suppose ourselves near the western Islands [the Azores]. . . .

July 8thAn other wet drisly day, but we must not complain, for we have a fair wind; our sails all square and go at 7 knots an hour. I have made a great acquisition, I have learnt the Names and places of all the masts and sails; and the Captain compliments me by telling me that he is sure I know well enough how to steer to take a trick at Helm; I may do pretty well in fair weather, but tis your masculine Spirits that are made for Storms. . . .

I went last evening upon deck, at the invitation of Mr. Foster to view that phenomenon of Nature; a blaizing ocean. A light flame Spreads over the ocean in appearence; with thousands of thousands Sparkling Gems, resembling our fire flies in a dark Night. It has a most Beautifull appearence. I never view the ocean without being filled with Ideas of the Sublime, and am ready to break forth with the psalmist, “Great and Marvellous are thy Works, Lord God Almighty; in Wisdom hast thou made them all.”

* Abigail is describing phosphorescence, or more properly bioluminescence, caused by the slow oxidation of material found in certain marine organisms.

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted June 18th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Ocean Voyages,Weather

“hopes of a joyfull meeting of my long absent Friend”

ABIGAIL ADAMS continues writing to her sister MARY CRANCH on board the ship Active on its way to England where Abigail will join her “long absent Friend”, her husband John. Abigail promises to post the journal to her sister immediately upon landing and finding a ship bound for America.

Our accommodations on Board are not what I could wish, or hoped for. We cannot be alone, only when the Gentlemen are thoughtfull enough to retire upon deck, which they do for about an hour in the course of the day; our state rooms are about half as large as Cousin Betsys little Chamber, with two Cabbins in each. . . . This place has a small grated window, which opens into the Companion, and is the only air admitted. The door opens into the Cabbin where the Gentlemen all Sleep; and wh[ere] we sit dine &c. We can only live with our door Shut, whilst we dress and undress. Necessity has no law, but what should I have thought on shore; to have layed myself down to sleep, in common with half a dozen Gentlemen? We have curtains it is true, and we only in part undress, about as much as the Yankee Bundlers*, but we have the satisfaction of falling in, with a set of well behaved, decent Gentlemen, whose whole deportment is agreeable to the strickest delicacy both in words and action.
If the wind and weather continues as favorable as it has hietherto been; we expect to make our passage in 30 days, which is going a hundred miles a day. Tis a vast tract of ocean which we have to traverse; I have contemplated it with its various appearences; it is indeed a secret world of wonders, and one of the Sublimist objects in Nature.
“Thou makest the foaming Billows roar
Thou makest the roaring Billows sleep.”
They proclaim the deity, and are objects too vast for the controul of feble Man. . . .

Abigail describes for her sister what the various passengers are doing as she writes.

I will now tell you, where I am sitting, at a square table in the Great Cabin, at one corner of which is Col. Norten and Mr. Foster engaged in playing back Gammon, at the other, Mr. Green writing, and at the fourth, Dr. Clark eating ham. Behind Col. Norten, Mr. Spear reading Tompsons Seasons with his Hat on, young Lawrence behind me reading Ansons Voyages, Ester kniting, the Steward and Boys Bustling about after wine and porter, and last of all as the least importantly employ’d Mrs. Adams**, and Nabby in their Cabbin a sleep and this at 12 oclock in the day. O Shame! The Captain comes down and finds me writing, kindly tenders me some large paper to write upon. I believe he thinks I shall have occasion for it. This man has a kindness in his disposition which his countanance does not promise.
Mr. Green comes down from deck and reports that the Mate says we are 16 hundred miles on our Way. This is good hearing. I can scarcly realize myself upon the ocean, or that I am within 14 hundred miles of the British coast. I rejoice with trembling. Painfull and fearfull Ideas, will arise and intermix, with the pleasureable hopes of a joyfull meeting of my long absent Friend. . . .
I shall write whilst I am on Board when ever I can catch a quiet time, it is an amusement to me, reading tires me, work I do sometimes, but when there is no writing there is less pleasure in working; I shall keep the Letter open untill I arrive and put it on Board the first vessel I find comeing to America.

* a courtship practice in 18th century New England in which two people of the opposite sex, partially clothed, lay side by side in bed.
** Love Lawrence Adams, daughter of Rev. William Lawrence of Lincoln. Her husband Joseph Adams, a physician, was a loyalist refugee.

Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted June 11th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Ocean Voyages,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

“The Sea running mountain high . . . “

On a voyage across the Atlantic in 1784 to join her husband John in London, ABIGAIL ADAMS kept a journal intended for her sister MARY CRANCH. Once her seasickness had abated Abigail took charge and supervised the cleaning of the passenger rooms on the ship Active.

Latitude 44 Long 24 on Board the Ship Active twesday July 6 1784
from the ocean
No sooner was I able to move; than I found it necessary to make a Bustle amongst the waiters, and demand a Cleaner abode; by this time Brisler was upon his feet; and as I found I might reign mistress on Board without any offence I soon exerted my Authority with scrapers mops Brushes, infusions of viniger; &c. and in a few hours you would have thought yourself in a different Ship. Since which our abode is much more tolerable and the Gentlemen all thank me for my care; our Captain is an admirable Seaman—always attentive to his Sails, and his rigging, keeps the deck all night, carefull of every body on Board; watchfull that they run no risks, kind and humane to his Men; who are all as still and quiet as any private family, nothing cross or Dictatorial in his Manners, a much more agreable Man than I expected to find him; he cannot be called a polished gentleman; but he is so far as I have Seen; a very clever Man.

The cleaning having been accomplished Abigail turned her attention to her fellow passengers.

We have for passengers a Col. Norten, who is a grave sedate Man, of a Good Natural understanding, improved by Buisness, and converse with Mankind; his litterary accomplishments not very great. A Mr. Green, a scotch Man I am persuaded, high perogative Man plumes himself upon his country; haughty and imperious, but endeavours to hide this with the appearence of politeness; which however he is too apt to transgress upon any occasion; whenever any subject arises, which does not intirely agree with his sentiments. He calls himself an english Man, has been in the British Service during the war as a secretary on Board some of the British Admirals; he is a Man of sense and of reading, the most so of any we have on Board. Next to him is Dr. Clark to whom we are under obligations for every kindness, and every attention that it is in the power of a Gentleman and a physician to shew. Humane Benevolent tender and attentive, not only to the Ladies, but to every one on Board, to the servant, as well as the master, he has renderd our voyage much more agreeable and pleasent than it possibly could have been without him, his advice we have stood in need of, and his care we have felt the Benifit of, a Brother could not have been kinder, nor a parent tenderer, and it was all in the pleasent easy cheerfull way, without any thing studied Labourd, or fullsome, the natural result of a good Heart, possesst with a power of making others happy.
Tis not a little attention that we Ladies stand in need of at sea, for it is not once in the 24 hours that we can even Cross the cabbin; without being held, or assisted. Nor can we go upon deck without the assistance of 2 Gentlemen; and when there, we are allways bound into our Chairs: whilst you I imagine are scorching under the mid summer heat; we can comfortably bear our double calico Gowns; our Baize ones upon them; and a cloth cloak in addition to all these.
Mr. Foster is an other passenger on Board [a part owner of the ship Active], a Merchant; a Gentleman soft in his manners; very polite and kind, Loves domestick Life, and thinks justly of it. I respect him on this account. Mr. Spear brings up the Rear, a single Gentleman; with a great deal of good humour, some wit; and much drollery, easy and happy blow high or blow low, can sleep and laugh at all seasons. These are our Male companions. I hardly thought a Leiut. Mellicot worth mentioning . . . tho he keeps not with us, except at meal times, when he does not behave amiss. My Name sake [Love Lawrence Adams] you know, she is a modest pretty woman; and behaves very well.

Abigail described the ocean and the weather and their effects on the ship for her sister Mary.

I have accustomed myself to writing a little every Day when I was able; so that a small motion of the Ship does not render it more unintelligible than u[sua?]l.
But there is no time since I have been at sea; when the Ship is what we call still; that its motion is not equal to the moderate rocking of a cradle. As to wind and weather since we came out; they have been very fortunate for us in general, we have had 3 Calm days, and 2 days contrary wind with a storm, I call’d it, but the Sailors say it was only a Breeze. This was upon the Banks of Newfoundland, the Wind at East. Through the day we could not set in our Chairs, only as some Gentleman set by us, with his Arm fastned into ours; and his feet braced against a table or chair that was lashed down with Ropes, Bottles, Mugs, plates crasshing to peices, first on one side; and then on the other. The Sea running mountain high, and knocking against the sides of the vessel as tho it would burst the sides. When I became so fatigued with the incessant motion; as not to be able to set any longer; I was assisted into my Cabbin, where I was obliged to hold myself in; with all my might the remainder of the Night: no person who is a Stranger to the sea; can form an adequate Idea, of the debility occassiond by sea Sickness. The hard rocking of a Ship in a storm, the want of sleep for many Nights, alltogether reduce one to such a lassitude, that you care little for your fate. The old Sea men thought nothing of all this, nor once entertaind an Idea of danger, compared to what they have sufferd; I do suppose it was trifling, but to me it was allarming and I most heartily prayed: if this was only a Breeze; to be deliverd from a storm.

More from Abigail’s journal of her voyage written for her sister in the next post.

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.] In the Words of Women by Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011), 259.

posted June 3rd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Ocean Voyages,Weather

“that most disheartning, disspiriting malady, Sea sickness”

After the treaty of peace between Britain and the United States had been signed in 1783 John Adams, who had been named Minister to Britain, begged his wife Abigail to join him in London. His pain at their continued separation— it had been nearly six years since he “first crost the Atlantick”—was palpable: “What Shall I do for Want of my Family. . . . Will you come to me this fall and go home with me in the spring? If you will, come with my dear Nabby. . . . This is my sincere Wish, although the Expence will be considerable, the Trouble to you great. . . . I am So unhappy without you that I wish you would come at all Events.”

Abigail was reluctant to go: “the ocean is so formidable, the quitting my habitation and my Country, leaving my Children, my Friends, with the Idea that perhaps I may never see them again . . . there are hours when I feel unequal to the trial.” In the end she could not resist her husband’s entreaties.

She made all the preparations necessary for her departure. Her two boys were left with her sister ELIZABETH SHAW and her husband who would prepare them for Harvard. Her sister MARY CRANCH was to look in on John’s mother. The care of her house and furniture she entrusted to Pheby, a slave whom her father had freed in his will, and who had recently married William Abdee. Abigail expressed confidence in the pair: “I have no doubt of their care and faithfulness, & prefer them to any other family.” She let the farm to a tenant and enlisted two servants—a man and a woman—to accompany her.

ABIGAIL ADAMS sailed with her daughter Nabby on the ship Active on June 20, 1784. On the voyage she kept a journal, with entries on most days, that she sent to MARY CRANCH when she was able to find a ship bound for America.

Latitude 44 Long 24 on Board the Ship Active twesday July 6 1784
from the ocean
My dear Sister
I have been 16 days at sea, and have not attempted to write a single Letter; tis true I have kept a journal when ever I was able, but that must be close locked up; unless I was sure to hand it you with safety.
Tis said of Cato the Roman censor, that one of the 3 things which he regreted during his Life, was going once by sea when he might have made his journey by land; I fancy the philosopher was not proof against that most disheartning, disspiriting malady, Sea sickness. Of this I am very sure, that no Lady would ever wish; or a second time try the Sea; were the objects of her pursuit within the reach of a land journey. . . .
And this was truly the case of your poor sister, and all her female companions, when not one of us could make our own Beds; put on, or take of our shoes, or even lift a finger. As to our other cloathing we wore the greater part of it, untill we were able to help ourselves; added to this misfortune Brisler my Man servant was as bad as any of us. . . .
Our sickness continued for ten days; with some intermissions. We crawled upon deck when ever we were able, but it was so cold and damp that we could not remain long upon it, and the confinement of the Air below, the constant rolling of the vessel and the Nausea of the Ship which was much too tight, contributed to keep up our disease. The vessel is very deep loaded with oil and potash, the oil leaks the potash smoaks and ferments, all adds to the flavour. When you add to all this the horrid dirtiness of the ship, the slovenness of the steward, and the unavoidable sloping spilling occasiond by the tossing of the Ship, I am Sure you will be thankfull that the pen is not in the hands of Swift, or Smollet, and still more so that you are far removed from the Scene.

More from Abigail Adams’s journal in the next post.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 September 1783, Adams Family Papers: Electronic Archive Massachusetts Historical Society; In the Words of Women by Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011), 257-259. “Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted May 26th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Ocean Voyages,Shaw, Elizabeth Smith,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

“that quilted contrivance”

The correspondence between ABIGAIL SMITH ADAMS, MARY SMITH CRANCH, and ELIZABETH SMITH SHAW/PEABODY reveals the strong bond that existed between the Smith sisters. Mary was the eldest, followed by Abigail, and Elizabeth “Betsy.” Mary was living in Salem Massachusetts in 1766 while Abigail was in Braintree. The two were too far apart to be able to see each other frequently and they sorely missed the visits and chats they used to have. Mary Cranch had a daughter Betsy and Abigail had her first child Abigail called Nabby. Mary’s husband Richard had been ill and Abigail hopes she is not too “cast down”, that is depressed, by it. The letter ends with an interesting request from Abigail.

Dear Sister
I heard to Day that the Doctor had a Letter from Mr. Cranch, and that he was still very Ill, poor Man. I am grieved for him, and for you my dear Sister, who I know share with him in all his troubles. It seem[s] worse to me when I hear you are unwell now than it used to, when I could go and see you. Tis a hard thing to be weaned from any thing we Love, time nor distance has not yet had that Effect upon me. I think of you ten times where I used to once. I feel more concern’d for you, and more anxious about you—perhaps I am too much so. I would not have you cast down my Sister. Sufficient to the Day is the Evil thereof. . . . Tho things may not appear so agreable and encourageing at present, perhaps the Scale may be turned. Mr. Cranch may, and I hope he will have his Health better, and we may all have occasion to rejoice in Each others prosperity.
I send my little Betsy some worsted for a pair of Stockings to go to meeting in. You must remember my Love to Mr. Cranch. Mr. Adams would be very glad if he would write to him, and I should take it kindly if you could write to me by Father, and let me know how you all are. I should be obliged if you would Lend me that quilted contrivance Mrs. Fuller made for Betsy. Nabby Bruses her forehead sadly she is fat as a porpouse and falls heavey. My paper is full and obliges me to bid you good Night. Yours,
A Adams

The “quilted contrivance” that Abigail speaks of is a pudding cap. This was a padded cap tied onto the heads of toddlers beginning to walk. It was intended to protect their heads from injury by falls. It was commonly thought that frequent bumps on the head would turn children’s brains to mush— as in pudding, thus the phrase “pudding cap.” Small children were often called by the endearing term ” little pudding heads.”

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 13 October 1766,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-01-02-0045. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 1, December 1761 – May 1776, ed. Lyman H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, pp. 56–57.] A glossary of children’s clothing and the above image can be found on the Colonial Williamburg SITE.

posted May 3rd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Children,Clothes,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Peabody, Elizabeth Shaw

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