Abigail Adams

name= Abigail Adams

imagesize= 200px
caption= Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe, 1766
birth_date= birth date|1744|11|11
birth_place= Weymouth, Province of Massachusetts Bay
death_date= death date and age|1818|10|28|1744|11|11
death_place= Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
occupation= First Lady of the United States, Second Lady of the United States
religion= Congregational
spouse= John Adams
children= Abigail "Nabby", John Quincy, Susanna, Charles, Thomas, and Elizabeth (stillborn)
relations= William and Elizabeth Quincy Smith

order= 2nd
title= First Lady of the United States
term_start= March 4, 1797
term_end= March 4, 1801
predecessor= Martha Washington
successor= Martha Jefferson Randolph
order2= 1st
title2= Second Lady of the United States
term_start2= May 16, 1789
term_end2= March 4, 1797
predecessor2= "None"
successor2= Anna Thompson Gerry

Abigail Adams (née Smith) (November 11, 1744 – October 28, 1818) was the wife of John Adams, the second President of the United States, and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth, and is regarded as the first Second Lady of the United States and the second First Lady of the United States though the terms were not coined until after her death.

Adams is remembered for the many letters she wrote to her husband while he stayed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the Continental Congresses. John Adams frequently sought the advice of his wife on many matters, and their letters are filled with intellectual discussions on government and politics. The letters are invaluable eyewitness accounts of the Revolutionary War home front as well as excellent sources of political commentary.

Early life and family

Abigail was born in the North Parish Congregational Church at Weymouth, Massachusetts on November 11, 1744 to Rev. William Smith and Elizabeth Quincy Smith. By the calendar used today, it would be November 22. On her mother's side, she was descended from the Quincy family, a well-known political family in the Massachusetts colony. Her father (1707-1783), a liberal Congregationalist, and other forebears were Congregational ministers, and leaders in a society that held its clergy in high esteem. However, he did not preach about predestination, original sin, or the full divinity of Christ, instead emphasizing the importance of reason and morality. [http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/abigailadams.html Abigail Adams] ]

Although she did not receive a formal education, her mother taught her and her sisters Mary (1746-1811) and Elizabeth (known as Betsy) to read, write, and cipher; her father's, uncle's and grandfather's large libraries enabled them to study English and French literature. As an intellectually open-minded woman for her day, Abigail's ideas on women's rights and government would eventually play a major role, albeit indirectly, in the founding of the U.S.

Marriage and children

Abigail Smith met John Adams in 1759, and the two were exchanging love letters by 1762; They married on October 25, 1764, just five days before John's 29th birthday. John and Abigail Adams lived on a farm in Braintree (later renamed Quincy) before moving to Boston where his law practice expanded. In ten years she gave birth to five children:
Abigail (1765-1813), the future President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), Susanna Boylston (1768-1770), Charles (1770-1800), and Thomas Boylston (1772-1832). A sixth child, Elizabeth, was stillborn in 1777. She looked after family and home when he went traveling as circuit judge. "Alas!" she wrote in December 1773, "How many snow banks divide thee and me...."

In 1784, she and her daughter Abigail, who was known in the family as Nabby, joined her husband and her eldest son, John Quincy, at her husband's diplomatic post in Paris. After 1785, she filled the role of wife of the first United States Minister to the Kingdom of Great Britain. They returned in 1788 to a house known as the "Old House" in Quincy, which she set about vigorously enlarging and remodeling. It is still standing and open to the public as part of Adams National Historical Park. Nabby later died of breast cancer.

She raised her two younger sons throughout John Adams' prolonged absences; she also raised her elder grandchildren, including George Washington Adams and a younger John Adams, while John Quincy Adams was minister to Russia. Her childrearing included relentless and continual reminders of what the children owed to virtue and the Adams tradition. [Garry Wills, "Henry Adams and the Making of America", 2005; p. 24; Wills cites the criticisms of Paul Nagel "and others"]

Wife of the Vice President

As wife of the first Vice President, Abigail became a good friend to Martha Washington and a valued help in official entertaining, drawing on her experience of courts and society abroad. After 1791, however, poor health forced her to spend as much time as possible in Quincy. Illness or trouble found her resolute; as she once declared, she would "not forget the blessings which sweeten life."

First Lady

When John Adams was elected President of the United States, she continued a formal pattern of entertaining, becoming the first hostess of the yet-uncompleted White House. The city was wilderness, the President's House far from completion. Her private complaints to her family provide blunt accounts of both, but for her three months in Washington she duly held her dinners and receptions. She mentioned that fires had to be lit constantly to keep the cold, cavernous place warm and she describes setting up her laundry in one of the great rooms. She took an active role in politics and policy, unprecedented by Martha Washington. She was so politically active that her political opponents came to refer to her as "Mrs. President". The Adamses retired to Quincy in 1801 after John Adams' defeat in his bid for a second term as President of the United States. She followed her son's political career earnestly as her letters to contemporaries show.


Abigail Adams died on October 28, 1818, of typhoid fever, several years before her son became president, and is buried beside her husband in a crypt located in the United First Parish Church (also known as the "Church of the Presidents") in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was 73 years old; John Adams was 90 when he died. Her last words were "Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long."

Political viewpoints

Women's Rights

Adams was an advocate of married women's property rights and more opportunities for women, particularly in the field of education. Women, she believed, should not submit to laws not made in their interest, nor should they be content with the simple role of being companions to their husbands. They should educate themselves and thus be recognized for their intellectual capabilities, so they could guide and influence the lives of their children and husbands. She is known for her March 1776 letter to John Adams and the Continental Congress, requesting that they

:"...remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If 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 which we have no voice, or Representation." John declined Abigail's "extraordinary code of laws," but acknowledged to Abigail, "We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight." [The exchange can be found online [http://www.thelizlibrary.org/suffrage/abigail.htm here] .]


Along with her husband, Adams believed that slavery was not only evil, but a threat to the American democratic experiment. A letter written by her on March 31, 1776 explained that she doubted most of the Virginians had such the "passion for Liberty" they claimed they did, since they "deprive [d] their fellow Creatures" of freedom.

A notable incident regarding this happened in Philadelphia in 1791, where a free black youth came to her house asking to be taught how to write. Subsequently, she placed the boy in a local evening school, though not without objections from a neighbor. Abigail responded that he was "a Freeman as much as any of the young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? ... I have not thought it any disgrace to my self to take him into my parlor and teach him both to read and write.""

Religious beliefs

Abigail Adams, as well as her husband, was an active member of the First Parish Church in Quincy, which became Unitarian in doctrine by 1753. In a letter to John Quincy Adams dated May 5, 1816, she wrote of her religious beliefs:

:"I acknowledge myself a unitarian—Believing that the Father alone, is the supreme God, and that Jesus Christ derived his Being, and all his powers and honors from the Father ... There is not any reasoning which can convince me, contrary to my senses, that three is one, and one three."

She also asked Louisa Adams in a letter dated January 3, 1818, "When will Mankind be convinced that true Religion is from the Heart, between Man and his creator, and not the imposition of Man or creeds and tests?"



A cairn — a mound of rough stones — crowns the nearby hill from which she and her son, John Quincy, watched the Battle of Bunker Hill and the burning of Charlestown. At that time she was minding the children of Dr. Joseph Warren, President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, who was killed in the battle. An Adams Memorial has been proposed in Washington, D.C., honoring Abigail, her husband, and other members of their family.


Passages from Adams' letters to her husband figured prominently in songs from the Broadway musical "1776".


Adams was played by Kathryn Walker in the 1976 PBS mini-series "The Adams Chronicles". In the mini-series "John Adams", which premiered in March 2008 on HBO, she was played by Laura Linney.

Portrait on currency

The First Spouse Program under the Presidential $1 Coin Act authorizes the United States Mint to issue 1/2 ounce $10 gold coins and bronze medal duplicates [U.S. Mint: [http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/firstSpouse/ First Spouse Program] . Accessed 2008-06-27. "The United States Mint also produces and make available to the public bronze medal duplicates of the First Spouse Gold Coins."] to honor the first spouses of the United States. The Abigail Adams coin was released on June 19, 2007, and sold out in just hours.



*Nagel, Paul C. 1987. [http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/NAGADX.html "The Adams Women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, Their Sisters and Daughters."] New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195038746

*Bober, Natalie S. 1995. "Abigail Adams: Witness to a revolution" New York: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division.

External links

* [http://www.abigailadams.org/ Short summary of Abigail's Life]
* [http://virtualology.com/abigailadams/ Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 ]
* [http://www.masshist.org/adams/biographical.cfm#second Adams family biographies - Massachusetts Historical Society]
* [http://www.familytales.org/results.php?tla=aba Collection of Abigail Adams Letters]
* [http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/ADAMYD.html My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams, Harvard University Press]
* [http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/NAGADX.html The Adams Women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, Their Sisters and Daughters, Harvard University Press]
* [http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/NAGDEX.html Descent from Glory: Four Generations of the John Adams Family, Harvard University Press]
* [http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/ADAADA.html "Adams Family Correspondence." Cambridge: Harvard University Press]
* [http://abigailadamsbirthplace.org/ Abigail Adams Birthplace - Museum in Weymouth, Massachusetts]
* [http://www.whosyomama.com/gabroaddrick3/4/26100.htm Ancestors of Abigail Smith]

NAME= Adams, Abigail
SHORT DESCRIPTION= first Second Lady of the United States, second First Lady of the United States
DATE OF BIRTH= November 11, 1744
PLACE OF BIRTH= Weymouth, Province of Massachusetts Bay
DATE OF DEATH= October 28, 1818
PLACE OF DEATH= Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.A.}PLACE OF BURIAL = [first unitarian church [Quincy Massachusetts]

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