Abigail Smith Adams (1744 -1818), first lady to the second President of the United States and mother of the sixth President, was one of the most respected and influential women of the early revolutionary period of American history. As the closest advisor to her husband, John, and a strong influence on her son, John Quincy, Abigail’s influence at the center of American political power spans a half century or more.
Born November 11, 1744, in Weymouth, Massachusetts, Abigail was educated at home, where she took advantage of the extensive library of her father, a minister. At nineteen, she married the young, Harvard-educated lawyer John Adams and moved to Braintree (now Quincy). There, she raised the couple’s four surviving children and managed the farm and household, as John spent more and more time away from home in the service of the young country. Their correspondence during these separations, which encompasses more than 1,100 surviving letters exchanged from the days of their courtship through the end of John Adams’ Presidency (1797-1801), provides a remarkable portrait of this Founding Father and Mother. Abigail died in Quincy on October 28, 1818.
Although not formally educated, Abigail was an intellectual with strong beliefs and philosophy about republicanism. Arguably the most important woman of the Revolutionary and Early Republic periods of American history, her ideas about government and politics helped to shape the policies of her husband. Her strong advocacy for the rights of women make her an important figure in American Women’s history; she famously wrote, “If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” Abigail Adams is truly a unique figure in American history whose importance is difficult to overestimate.