Abigail Adams was born November 11, 1744 in Weymouth, to Elizabeth Quincy Smith and Reverend William Smith, pastor of Weymouth’s First Church.
Like most girls of her time, she did not receive a formal education, but took advantage of her father’s library and studied the Bible, history, philosophy, essays and poetry. Abigail’s mother and grandmother Quincy taught her social graces, as well as homemaking and handiwork skills. Such a background helped her to become a keen political observer, prolific writer, and influential First Lady.
On October 25, 1764 Abigail married John Adams, a Harvard graduate pursuing a law career. Their marriage was one of mind and heart, producing three sons and two daughters, and lasting for more than half a century. They first lived on John’s farm in Braintree, and later in Boston. Long separations kept them apart, when John traveled as a circuit lawyer and later, when John served as delegate to the Continental Congress, envoy abroad, and elected officer.
Abigail struggled alone with wartime shortages, lack of income, and difficult living conditions. She ran the household, farm, and educated her children. Abigail’s letters to John were strong, witty and supportive. The letters, which have been preserved, detail her life during revolutionary times, and describe the many dangers and challenges she faced as our young country fought to become independent. Most of all, the letters tell of her loneliness without her “dearest friend,” her husband John.
Abigail followed John to his posts in Paris in 1784 and Great Britain in 1785, always observing and commenting upon politics, customs and society. They returned to a newly acquired house in Braintree (now part of Quincy) that would remain their home for the rest of their lives. From 1789 to 1801, Abigail, as wife of the Vice President and then as First Lady, became a trusted and influential political advisor to John, while she also fulfilled her role in official entertaining. Her unwavering support and encouragement of her husband in his career was apparent, as she fearlessly expressed her opinions in private and in public.
Abigail and John retired to Quincy in 1801, and for 17 years enjoyed the companionship that public life had long denied them. Abigail died on October 28, 1818, and is buried in the United First Parish Church of Quincy beside her husband, who died on July 4, 1826.
Abigail Adams is further distinguished as the first American woman honored as the wife of one U. S. President and the mother of another. Her husband John Adams, 2nd President, served from 1797 to 1801, and their son, John Quincy Adams, 6th President, served from 1825 to 1829.
Intelligent and broadminded, Abigail Smith Adams was often ahead of her time with many of her ideas. She opposed slavery, believed in equal education for boys and girls, and practiced what she learned as a child – the duty of the fortunate is to help those who are less fortunate.