Abigail Adams: A Life
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In this new, vivid, nuanced portrait, now in paperback, prize-winning historian Woody Holton uses original sources and letters for the first time in a sweeping reinterpretation of Adams's life story and of women's roles in the creation of the republic.
In this vivid new biography of Abigail Adams, the most illustrious woman of the founding era, Bancroft Award–winning historian Woody Holton offers a sweeping reinterpretation of Adams’s life story and of women’s roles in the creation of the republic.
Using previously overlooked documents from numerous archives, Abigail Adams shows that the wife of the second president of the United States was far more charismatic and influential than historians have realized. One of the finest writers of her age, Adams passionately campaigned for women’s education, denounced sex discrimination, and matched wits not only with her brilliant husband, John, but with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. When male Patriots ignored her famous appeal to “Remember the Ladies,” she accomplished her own personal declaration of independence: Defying centuries of legislation that assigned married women’s property to their husbands, she amassed a fortune in her own name.
Adams’s life story encapsulates the history of the founding era, for she defined herself in relation to the people she loved or hated (she was never neutral), a cast of characters that included her mother and sisters; Benjamin Franklin and James Lovell, her husband’s bawdy congressional colleagues; Phoebe Abdee, her father’s former slave; her financially naïve husband; and her son John Quincy.
At once epic and intimate, Abigail Adams, sheds light on a complicated, fascinating woman, one of the most beloved figures of American history.
traveler, she lived for letters from home. It solaced her to know that her sisters lamented their separation as intensely as she did. Elizabeth discovered one sense in which she and Abigail were still together. “I looked up,” she wrote, “and considered the same Sun, as guiding your Course—the same azure Vault bespangled with Stars as spread over your Head—and with pleasure I beheld the Moon walking in brightness, and fancied you at the same moment contemplating its glory.” Abigail’s
prospect of marrying a man who truly doted on her. Just how this transformation came about remains a mystery, for neither Nabby nor her father said anything about it in their letters home. For her part, Abigail described the departure of one fiancé and the arrival of another in great detail, but her story seemed to change every time she told it. One day early in August 1785, Adams forced her congenitally tight-lipped daughter into a heart-to-heart talk. During the course of the conversation,
breakup. “When I was at a certain house in Boston the other day,” Mary reported to Abigail at the end of September, “I was attack’d upon the Subject of my Niece’s conduct. Many Slighty things were said” about her new husband, whom Elizabeth Palmer’s brother and sister claimed to know. “I felt angry and spoke my mind very plainly,” Mary wrote. She had no doubt that everything she said to her niece by marriage would immediately be communicated to Tyler himself, so she had no compunction about
with either France or Great Britain was to sever all trade ties with Europe, most members of John Quincy’s family, including his mother, were appalled at the idea. But John Quincy agreed with the Republicans that Jefferson’s embargo was the only way to preserve peace, and he infuriated his fellow Federalists by voting for it. Abigail came around to her son’s position that the embargo was a necessary evil—though she repeatedly stressed that it ruined not only the merchant but the farmer, who
([Richmond], ), 10, 12. 291¶1 AA to JA, May 10, 1794, MDF, 369. 291¶2 AA to JA, Dec. 31, 1796, AEA; AA to AAS, March 10, 1794, Letters of Mrs. Adams, 2:229. 291¶3 Samuel Adams, speech to the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives, Salem Gazette, Jan. 21, 1794; AA to JA, Jan. 18, 1794, Jan. 3, 1796, AEA. 292¶1 CA to AA, [February?] 1795, “Issabella”[AA] to George Cabot, [January 1794; the Adams Papers office notes that this letter had to have been written after Jan. 17], AP#379,