Main Content

Abigail Adams

Inheriting New England's strongest traditions, Abigail Smith was born on November 11, 1744 at Weymouth, Massachusetts. On her mother's side she was descended from the Quincys, a family of great prestige in the colony.

Like other women of the time, Abigail lacked formal education, but curiosity spurred her keen intelligence, and she read avidly the books at hand. Reading created a bond between her and the young John Adams and they were married in 1764. It was a marriage of the mind and of the heart, enduring for more than half a century.

In ten years she bore three sons and two daughters. Abigail looked after family and home when John went traveling to serve the country they loved. Her letters - pungent, witty, and vivid, spelled just as she spoke - detail her life in times of revolution. They tell the story of a woman who struggled with wartime shortages and inflation, ran the farm with a minimum of help and taught four children when formal education was interrupted. They tell of her loneliness without her "dearest Friend."

In 1784, she joined him at his diplomatic post in Paris. After 1785, she filled the role of wife of the first United States minister to Great Britain. They returned to Massachusetts in 1788, to the handsome home they had just acquired at Braintree, later called Quincy.

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 found her resolute. She once declared, she would "not forget the blessings which sweeten life."

When John Adams was elected President, she continued a formal pattern of entertaining--even in the primitive conditions she found at the new capital in November 1800. The city was wilderness, the President's House far from complete, but for her three months in Washington she duly held official dinners and receptions.

The Adamses retired to Quincy in 1801, and for 17 Years enjoyed the companionship that public life had long denied them. Abigail Adams died in 1818, and is buried beside her husband in United First Parish Church. She leaves her country a most remarkable record as patriot and first lady, wife of one president and mother of another.

You Might Also Like