Abigail Adams – HISTORY
- abigail adams: early years
- the children of abigail adams
- abigail adams quotes: remember the ladies
- abigail adams, first lady
- withdraw from public life
- Legacy of Abigail Adams
abigail adams was one of only two women to be a wife and mother of two in the usa. uu. presidents (the other is barbara bush). Often separated from her husband because of her political work, the self-taught Abigail oversaw the family household and raised her four children alone, while she carried on a lively, lifelong correspondence with her husband about the political issues of the day. she was also famous for her early advocacy of various divisive causes, including women’s rights, female education, and the abolition of slavery.
abigail adams: early years
Born in 1744, Abigail Smith grew up in Weymouth, Massachusetts, a town about 12 miles from Boston. Her father, William Smith, was a minister of the first Congregational church there and also made a living as a farmer.
He and his wife, Elizabeth Quincy Smith, belonged to distinguished New England families. Elizabeth’s father, John Quincy, was active in colonial government and served as Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly for 40 years, and his career in public service greatly influenced his granddaughter.
Schooled at home, Abigail read extensively from the family library. When she was just 11 years old, she and her sisters began being tutored by Richard Cranch, an immigrant from England who later married Abigail’s older sister, Mary.
A friend of Cranch’s, a young lawyer named John Adams, met 17-year-old Abigail and fell in love. After a long engagement on which her parents insisted, they were married on October 24, 1764, when Abigail was 19 and John 28.
the children of abigail adams
Just nine months after their marriage, Abigail gave birth to the couple’s first daughter, Abigail (named Nabby). she would have six children in all; Four lived to adulthood, including Nabby Adams, John Quincy Adams (b. 1767), Charles Adams (b. 1770), and Thomas Adams (b. 1772).
In 1774, as tensions between the 13 colonies and Great Britain threatened to erupt into violence, John Adams headed to Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress. He and Abigail began corresponding regularly during this period, beginning what would become a voluminous and storied correspondence.
abigail adams quotes: remember the ladies
Abigail herself passionately supported independence, arguing that it should apply to women as well as men. During the Second Continental Congress, while John Adams and her fellow delegates were debating the question of formally declaring independence from Great Britain, Abigail wrote to her husband from her home in Braintree, Massachusetts, on March 31, 1776:
“and, by the way, in the new code of laws that I suppose you will need to make, I wish you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors…remember all men would be tyrants if they could . if ladies are not given special attention, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not bind ourselves to any law in which we have no voice or representation.”
Although her husband jokingly responded to her request, expressing his fear of “petticoat despotism”, Abigail later responded, making it clear that she was serious about the implications of British freedom for the condition of the woman. into a future independent republic.
He also strongly supported the education of women, writing to John in 1778 that “you need not be told how much female education is neglected, nor how fashionable it has been to ridicule female learning.”
abigail adams, first lady
In the years after the Revolutionary War, John Adams served as President of the United States. Minister to France and then to England. Abigail stayed home at first, keeping her husband well-informed of domestic matters in her letters.
she joined him in europe in 1784 and they remained abroad for five more years, returning home in 1789 so that john could assume the vice-presidency under george washington. Over the next decade, Abigail divided her time between us. uu. Capital (first New York and then Philadelphia) and Braintree, where she ran the family farm.
in 1793, secretary of state thomas jefferson resigned amid serious fissures between federalists and anti-federalists (known as jeffersonians) in the washington cabinet. When Washington announced his intention to retire in 1796, John Adams emerged as the leading candidate on the Federalist side, with Jefferson as his main opponent.
Abigail, like her husband, had considered Jefferson a good friend and wrote him letters regularly, but their correspondence ceased once he and John Adams began competing against each other for the nation’s top job.
As First Lady, Abigail held and expressed strong opinions on current political issues and debates, including the struggle between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. she wrote at the time of her struggles to control herself: “I have been so accustomed to the freedom of feeling that I do not know how to put so many guards around me, as it will be essential, to look at each word before pronouncing it. to do so, and silence me when I long to speak.”
Abigail spent much of her husband’s time in office at their Massachusetts home, but in 1800 she moved with him into the new presidential mansion in Washington, D.C., becoming the first First Lady to live in the White House.
she disagreed with her husband during the xyz affair, with abigail thinking that war should be declared against france. abigail and john adams agreed on alien & Sedition Acts of 1798, as Abigail saw that the Sedition Act prohibiting malicious anti-government writing did justice to those who published lies about her husband.
withdraw from public life
during the hotly contested presidential election of 1800, the jeffersonian press attacked abigail for being too outspoken and imperious. one opponent, albert gallatin, memorably wrote that “she is the lady. president, not of the united states but of a faction…it’s not right.”
After Adams lost to Jefferson, Abigail wrote to her son that she had “few regrets” about withdrawing from public life. “At my age and with my bodily maladies, I’ll be happier in Quincy [Massachusetts].”
His son Charles, who had battled alcohol abuse, died a few days before the election, affecting both Adams more than losing the presidency.
abigail adams legacy
In retirement, Abigail maintained an intense correspondence, including a renewed relationship with Jefferson (with whom John Adams would exchange letters until they both died on the same day: July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence).
She and John saw their son John Quincy’s political career prosper, including a diplomatic posting in London and his appointment as Secretary of State under James Madison in 1817. Unlike John, Abigail would not live to see John Quincy Adams elected nation’s sixth president in 1826. died at his home in quincy in october 1818, at the age of 73, of typhoid fever.
abigail adams refused during her lifetime to allow her correspondence to be published, considering a woman’s letters a private matter. But in 1848, his grandson Charles Frances Adams (John Quincy’s youngest son) arranged for the publication of the first volume of his letters, forever preserving his unique experience and perspective on American life and democracy. /p>
diane jacobs, dear abigail: the intimate lives and revolutionary ideas of abigail adams and her two extraordinary sisters (ballantine books, 2014).
First Lady Biography: Abigail Adams, National Library of First Ladies.
abigail smith adams, national museum of women’s history.
the adams kids, pbs: american experience.