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Portrait of Abigail Adams
by Benjamin Blythe
- Occupation: First Lady of the United States
- Born: November 22, 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony
- Died: October 28, 1818 in Quincy, Massachusetts
- Best known for: Wife of President John Adams and mother of President John Quincy Adams
Where did Abigail Adams grow up?
Abigail Adams was born Abigail Smith in the small town of Weymouth, Massachusetts. At the time, the town was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony of Great Britain. Her father, William Smith, was the minister of the local church. She had a brother and two sisters.
Since Abigail was a girl, she did not receive a formal education. Only boys went to school at this time in history. However, Abigail's mother taught her to read and write. She also had access to her father's library where she was able to learn new ideas and educate herself.
Abigail was an intelligent girl who wished that she could attend school. Her frustration over not being able to get a better education led her to argue for women's rights later on in life.
Marrying John Adams
Abigail was a young lady when she first met John Adams, a young country lawyer. John was a friend of her sister Mary's fiancé. Over time, John and Abigail found they enjoyed each other's company. Abigail liked John's sense of humor and his ambition. John was attracted to Abigail's intelligence and wit.
In 1762 the couple became engaged to be married. Abigail's father liked John and thought he was a good match. Her mother, however, wasn't so sure. She thought Abigail could do better than a country lawyer. Little did she know that John would one day be president! The marriage was delayed due to an outbreak of smallpox, but finally the couple was married on October 25, 1763. Abigail's father presided over the wedding.
Abigail and John had six children including Abigail, John Quincy, Susanna, Charles, Thomas, and Elizabeth. Unfortunately, Susanna and Elizabeth died young, as was common in those days.
In 1768 the family moved from Braintree to the big city of Boston. During this time relations between the American colonies and Great Britain were getting tense. Events such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party occurred in the town where Abigail was living. John began to take a major role in the revolution. He was chosen to attend the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. On April 19, 1775 the American Revolutionary War began with the Battle of Lexington and Concord.
With John away at the Continental Congress, Abigail had to take care of the family. She had to make all sorts of decisions, manage the finances, take care of the farm, and educate the children. She also missed her husband terribly as he was gone for a very long time.
In addition to this, much of the war was taking place close by. Part of the Battle of Lexington and Concord was fought only twenty miles from her home. Escaping soldiers hid in her house, soldiers trained in her yard, she even melted utensils to make musket balls for the soldiers.
When the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought, Abigail woke to the sound of cannons. Abigail and John Quincy climbed a nearby hill to witness the burning of Charleston. At the time, she was taking care of the children of a family friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, who died during the battle.
Letters to John
During the war Abigail wrote many letters to her husband John about all that was happening. Over the years they wrote over 1,000 letters to each other. It is from these letters that we know what it must have been like on the home front during the Revolutionary War.
After the War
The war was finally over when the British surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. John was in Europe at the time working for the Congress. In 1783, Abigail missed John so much that she decided to go to Paris. She took her daughter Nabby with her and went to join John in Paris. When in Europe Abigail met Benjamin Franklin, who she did not like, and Thomas Jefferson, who she did like. Soon the Adams packed up and moved to London where Abigail would meet the King of England.
In 1788 Abigail and John returned to America. John was elected as Vice-President under President George Washington. Abigail became good friends with Martha Washington.
John Adams was elected president in 1796 and Abigail became the First Lady of the United States. She was worried that people wouldn't like her because she was so different from Martha Washington. Abigail had strong opinions on many political issues. She wondered if she would say the wrong thing and make people angry.
Despite her fears, Abigail did not back off her strong opinions. She was against slavery and believed in the equal rights of all people, including black people and women. She also believed that everyone had the right to a good education. Abigail always firmly supported her husband and was sure to give him the woman's point of view on issues.
Abigail and John retired to Quincy, Massachusetts and had a happy retirement. She died of typhoid fever on October 28, 1818. She did not live to see her son, John Quincy Adams, become president.
Remember the Ladies
coin by the United States Mint
Interesting Facts about Abigail Adams
- Her cousin was Dorothy Quincy, wife of the founding father John Hancock.
- Her nickname as a child was "Nabby".
- When she was First Lady some people called her Mrs. President because she had so much influence over John.
- The only other woman to have a husband and a son be president was Barbara Bush, wife of George H. W. Bush and mother of George W. Bush.
- In one of her letters Abigail asked John to "Remember the ladies". This became a famous quote used by women's rights leaders for years to come.
- Abigail paved the way for First Ladies in the future to speak their minds and fight for causes that they considered important.
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