"I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors."Abigail Adams was the wife of the second president of the United States, John Adams. She also was the mother of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams. Abigail left a glimpse of the revolutionary years through her remarkable letters.
- Abigail Adams, March 31, 1776
Abigail Smith Adams was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Her father and his forbears were Congregrationalist ministers, leaders in a society that held its clergy in high regard. Her mother was a descendant of the Quincys, a prestigious family in the Massachusetts colony.
Abigail received her education at home. Her father encouraged her to read, which she did avidly. Her family had a large library that she tapped to learn as much as she could. Abigail developed her own ideas on women’s rights and government, which would play an indirect role in the founding of the United States.
Marriage and family
Abigail Smith married attorney John Adams in 1764. The young couple lived on John`s small farm at Braintree (later Quincy), and later in Boston, as his practice expanded. The couple had their first child in 1765, and over the next 10 years, Abigail would give birth to three sons and two daughters. Abigail took care of the home and family while her husband traveled for long periods as a circuit judge.
The couple lived apart for even longer periods while he served the country they both loved, as a delegate to the Continental Congress. They wrote to each other while he was away. Her enthusiasm for the prospect of a new nation with a freshly minted government was tempered by a keen realism:
You tell me of degrees of perfection to which humkan nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but, at the same time, lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of instances.
Her precious letters detail the times and tribulations during the War of Independence, including the struggle with shortages and what little help she had to run the farm. But most of all, she told him how much she missed him and longed for him to return.
In 1784, Abigail joined her husband in Paris, at his diplomatic post. After 1785, she filled the role of the wife of the first United States minister to the Kingdom of Great Britain.
In 1788, she returned to the United States to a house they bought in Quincy, then took on the task of remodeling and enlarging it. The Adams home still stands today and is open to the public as part of Adams National Historical Park.
The vice presidency and presidency
Abigail`s husband served as vice president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Martha Washington became her good friend during that time, and Abigail helped Martha with the entertaining, drawing from experiences of her time abroad.
From 1797 thru 1801, Abigail was the wife of the president. She continued the pattern of entertaining, even in the new capital`s primitive circumstances. The president’s mansion was far from completion. She complained in private to her family about the conditions, but gracefully held receptions and dinners in Washington anyway.
Following the close of John Adams` presidency, the couple retired to Quincy, and spent all the time together they could, making up for the time they had been apart early in their marriage.
Abigail died on October 28, 1818, of typhoid fever. Her remains are buried next to those of her husband at the United First Parish Church (also known as the Church of the Presidents). She passed away seven years before her son, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth president.
Abigail Adams left a singular picture of her young country through her letters, a remarkable record as patriot and First Lady, wife of one president and mother of a future commander in chief.