First Ladies: Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams

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Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams held the special distinction of being the only First Lady not born in the United States, until our current First Lady.

Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams

Louisa Catherine Johnson was born in London, England on February 12, 1775. She was the daughter of Joshua and Catherine Nuth Johnson. Her father was an American merchant and her mother was English. She had six sisters and a brother, Thomas.

Louisa grew up in London until the American Revolution. The family then took refuge in Nantes, France.

Louisa met John Quincy Adams at her father’s house near London. Reports indicate he first noticed her older sister, before showing an interest in her.

The couple was married at All Hallows by the Tower church in Tower Hill, England on July 26, 1797. It would be several years before Louisa met her in-laws, but her strong willed mother-in-law {Abigail Adams} is reported to strongly object.

Her parents returned to the United States in 1797 and President John Adams {her father-in-law} as U.S. Director of Stamps.

In 1801, she had her first son, George Washington Adams.

Her father died in 1802 in Frederick, Maryland.

The next year, her son John Adams II, was born.

Louisa is reported to suffer from migraine headaches and frequent fainting spells. She had several miscarriages throughout her marriage.

In 1807, she had her third son, Charles Francis Adams.

Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams

In 1811, she accompanied her husband to his appointment in Russia. She is said to struggle greatly with the cold. That year she had an infant daughter, who died the following year.

Louisa is described as preferring quiet evenings of reading, playing her harp, and composing music and verse.

In 1825, she became first lady. Due to the bitter politics, this led to a time of deep depression for her.

She must have been grateful to leave the White House when her husband’s term ended. However, the next year her oldest son, George Washington Adams, committed suicide. Five years later, in 1834, her son, John Adams II also died. This only added to her depression.

By 1831, she was back in Washington, D.C. while her husband served in the United States House of Representatives.

“Our union has not been without its trials,” John Quincy Adams conceded. He acknowledged many “differences of sentiment, of tastes, and of opinions in regard to domestic economy, and to the education of children between us.” But added that “she always has been a faithful and affectionate wife, and a careful, tender, indulgent, and watchful mother to our children.”

John Quincy Adams died in 1848 at the United States Capitol.

Louisa remained in Washington until her own death on May 15, 1852. The day of her funeral was the first time both houses of the United States Congress adjourned in mourning for any woman.

She is buried beside her husband in Quincy, Massachusetts.


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