Abigail Adams: Biography, Facts & Accomplishments

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  • 0:00 Abigail Adams: Early Life
  • 1:01 Abigail and John…
  • 1:45 Abigail Adams: The First Lady
  • 5:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Thomas Davis

Thomas has taught high school age students for 34 years, undergraduate 12 years, and graduate courses for the last 8 years. He has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois.

Abigail Adams was the wife of President John Adams and the mother of John Quincy Adams. She proved to be much more than a figure head first lady, as she had great influence with President Adams.

Abigail Adams: Early Life

Abigail Adams, or as she was known by many, 'Mrs. President,' was a strong and influential First Lady of the United States. She served as an unofficial adviser to President Adams throughout his political career. President Adams sought out her advice on many major issues, including the XYZ Affair, Sedition Act, Alien Act, and perhaps most importantly, his own presidential aspirations. Abigail also advocated for the rights of women during a period where it really was not fashionable. In this lesson we will examine the life and accomplishments of Abigail Adams.

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Abigail Smith was born on November 11, 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. The daughter of a minister, young Abigail loved to read. Her favorites included the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton. She did not attend school, as it was not common for a young lady to do so during this period of history.

Abigail and John Adams' Marriage

Abigail's third cousin and future husband John Adams was a childhood friend. In 1762, they happened to meet at a social gathering after not seeing each other for several years. John noticed the small, reserved 17-year-old, and was in love. Three years later they were husband and wife.

Not long after their marriage, the couple had their first child, a daughter named Abigail. Their family grew very rapidly; over the next ten years, their daughter was joined by John Quincy (1767), Susanna (1768), Charles (1770), and Thomas Boylston (1772). Unfortunately, Susanna died as a toddler, and in 1777, Abigail delivered a stillborn daughter.

Abigail Adams: The First Lady

The American Revolution was brewing, and John was away from home constantly. The majority of the work at home was carried out by Abigail. They did write letters to each other regularly -- it is believed the couple exchanged approximately 1,100 letters.

Many of her Abigail's letters dealt with the rights of women. In one of her letters she said, 'Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them then your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the Husbands...Remember that all men would be tyrants if they could. 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.' John often listened to advice from Abigail on political matters.

Winning the revolution saw John sent to France and then England as a foreign minister. Abigail joined her husband in Europe, and then returned to America when he was named vice president. She split her time between Philadelphia and Massachusetts. Abigail often returned to tend to the farm and children. While she was in Philadelphia, Abigail would assist Martha Washington with entertaining ambassadors and other dignitaries.

In 1797, John became president. His number one confidant was his wife. He was often criticized for listening to Abigail. Many called her 'Mrs. President.' The capitol was now in Philadelphia and Abigail spent most of her days as a hostess or just receiving visitors. She would return as often as she could to Massachusetts, as her health was declining.

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