“This talk is based on the book I am writing tentatively titled The Radical Adams Couple of the West (Dubuque) and their Transcendental and Suffragist Friends. Austin and Mary Newbury Adams were self-described radicals who were more than just the hosts of the Transcendentalists (Emerson, Alcott etc.); they fit the description of Transcendentalists themselves.
Mary Newbury Adams became after the Civil War the foremost advocate for women’s clubs in the U.S. This was the time when women were legally and socially required to defer to their husbands. Women’s Clubs were the one venue for women “to hear their own voices.” These were more than social clubs; they were self-empowerment endeavors through mutual education. Along with guest speakers, members gave lectures on science, literature or the arts.
When Mary was not traveling the country for women’s issues she was active as the correspondence secretary for several of her clubs. Her role was to share ideas and to encourage women in their clubs. At the annual Women’s Congresses, she was on the platform with comrades such as Julia Ward Howe and at the World’s Fair in Chicago with Susan B. Anthony. Anthony enlisted Mary to give an 80th birthday tribute to Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
Judge Austin Adams, of the Iowa Supreme Court, also had a Transcendental perspective and was active in promoting education. He also supported his wife as she traveled the country for their liberal causes.
The Adams were members of the First Universalist Society of Dubuque.”