First Ladies: Abigail Adams

posted in: First Ladies, First Lady | 0

Abigail Smith was born on November 22, 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts to William Smith and Elizabeth Quincy Smith. Although she received no formal education, her mother taught her and her sisters to read and write and she had access to a large family library, where she could study English and French literature.

A young Abigail Adams

Abigail had known John Adams, her third cousin, since childhood.  The couple married on October 25, 1764 and would have six children together.  Their last child, a daughter, was stillborn, and another daughter died around the age of two years old.  Abigail raised four children to adulthood.  One soon would die while her husband was in office and another son would become President of the United States {John Quincy Adams}. 

Abigail and John’s marriage is well documented through their correspondence and other writings. John confided in his wife, and she was responsible for the farm and children while her husband was away on his numerous trips.

While John Adams was in Paris, France for diplomatic reasons, Abigail and their daughter, Nabby, joined him.  During this time, Abigail served as hostess to the various dignitaries the couple entertained.

Abigail did not attend her husband’s inauguration, as her mother was in ill health, and she attended to the older woman before her death.

While John Adams was President, Abigail continued her pattern of formal entertaining.  Each week she held a large dinner, along with making public appearances on a regular basis and providing entertainment for the Fourth of July celebrations in Philadelphia.  Unlike her predecessor, Lady Washington, Abigail Adams took an active role in politics.

Abigail Adams cared for the children of several family members that suffered from alcoholism and even brought them to live with her and John, during his Presidency.

Abigail Adams

She became the first wife of a President, to live in the President’s Mansion {White House} during the last four months of her husband’s presidency. The house, while still unfinished, was surrounded by thick woods.  Abigail described the home as “habitable” and the location “beautiful” but complained of the woods and difficulty in finding someone to chop wood for the first family.

Her health, which was never great, suffered while in Washington.

Abigail witnessed her son, Charles, die of alcoholism.  She raised his daughter and several other grandchildren, upon her and John’s return to their home in Quincy, Massachusetts. Her daughter, Nabby, died in 1813 of breast cancer, after a three year battle.

Abigail died on October 28, 1818 of typhoid fever, just two weeks shy of her 74th birthday.  Her last words were, “Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long.”

Due to her extensive collection of correspondence, Abigail Adams is one of the First Ladies we know a lot about.  Historians estimate that there are approximately 1200 letters in existence between John and Abigail Adams.



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.