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Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams.jpg
Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe, 1766
2nd First Lady of the United States
In office
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
Preceded by Martha Washington
Succeeded by Martha Jefferson Randolph
1st Wife of the Vice President of the
United States
In office
May 16, 1789 – March 4, 1797
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Martha Jefferson Randolph
Personal details
Born (1744-11-11)November 11, 1744
Weymouth, Province of Massachusetts Bay
Died October 28, 1818(1818-10-28) (aged 73)
Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Spouse(s) John Adams
Relations William and Elizabeth Quincy Smith
Children Abigail "Nabby", John Quincy, Susanna, Charles, Thomas,(stillborn)
Occupation First Lady of the United States, Second Lady of the United States

Abigail Smith Adams (November 11, 1744October 28, 1818) was the wife of John Adams, the second President of the United States. Later, people started to address the wife of the president as the First Lady. Although she was not addressed as such, Abigail was the second First Lady of the United States.

She was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts. She belonged to a famous family of Massachusetts (the Quincy Family).

Adams did not get a formal education in any school or college. Her father had a big library, so she studied several books and became knowledgeable.

She married John Adams in 1764. In the next ten years, she had five children, including John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States.

In 1801, the couple retired and lived in Quincy.

Abigail died in 1818, at age 74 of typhoid fever.

Early life and family

Abigail Adams birthplace, Weymouth MA
Abigail Adams birthplace, Weymouth MA

Abigail was born in the North Parish Congregational Church at Weymouth, Massachusetts to Rev. William Smith and Elizabeth Quincy Smith. On her mother's side, she was descended from the wealthy Quincy family, a well-known political family in the Massachusetts colony.

Although she did not receive a formal education, her mother taught her and her sisters Mary (1746-1811) and Elizabeth (known as Betsy) to read, write, and cipher. Her father's, uncle's, and grandfather's large libraries enabled them to study English and French literature. She became one of the most knowledgeable women ever to serve as First Lady.

Marriage and children

John Adams, Gilbert Stuart, c1800 1815
John Adams Second President of the United States of America 1815

Abigail Smith married John Adams on the October 25, 1764, just before her 20th birthday. John and Abigail Adams lived on a farm in Braintree (later renamed Quincy) before moving to Boston where his law practice grew. She looked after family and home when he went traveling as a circuit judge.

Second Lady

Old House, Quincy, Massachusetts
The "Old House" in Quincy, Massachusetts, residence of U. S. President John Adams and his family for four generations

The wife of the Vice President is called the Second Lady of the United States. As the first Second Lady, Abigail became a good friend to Martha Washington, the First Lady, and a valued help in official entertaining, using her knowledge and experience of courts and society in other countries.

After 1791, however, poor health forced her to spend as much time as possible in Quincy.

First Lady

Abigail Adams by Gilbert Stuart
Abigail Adams in later life

When John Adams was elected President of the United States, she continued a formal pattern of entertaining, becoming the first hostess of the yet-uncompleted White House.

She took an active role in politics and policy. She was so politically active that her political opponents came to refer to her as "Mrs. President."

The family retired to Quincy in 1801 after John Adams lost the election for his second term as President of the United States.

Women's Rights

USA-Boston-Abigail Adams Women's Memorial0
Abigail Adams Women's Memorial

Adams was an advocate of married women's property rights and more opportunities for women, particularly in the field of education.

Women, she believed, should not submit to laws not made in their interest, nor should they be content with the role of being only companions to their husbands. She believed that women should educate themselves and be recognized for their intellectual capabilities, so they could guide and influence the lives of their children and husbands.


Along with her husband, Adams believed that slavery was not only evil but a threat to American democracy.

She wrote a letter on March 31, 1776, that explained that she doubted most of the Virginians had such the "passion for Liberty" they claimed they did since they "deprive[d] their fellow Creatures" of freedom.


Resting place of Abigail Adams at United First Parish Church
Abigail's grave at United First Parish Church, Quincy, MA

Abigail Adams died on October 28, 1818, of typhoid fever, several years before her son became president. She is buried beside her husband in a crypt located in the United First Parish Church (also known as the Church of the Presidents) in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was 73 years old; John Adams was 90 when he died.

Her last words were, "Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long."


Abigail Adams Cairn, Quincy, Massachusetts
Abigail Adams Cairn, Quincy, Massachusetts

An Adams Memorial has been suggested in Washington, D.C., honoring Abigail, her husband, and other members of their family. A cairn — a mound of rough stones — crowns the nearby hill from which she and her son, John Quincy Adams, watched the Battle of Bunker Hill and the burning of Charlestown.

The First Spouse Program under the Presidential $1 Coin Act authorizes the United States Mint to issue 1/2 ounce $10 gold coins and bronze medal duplicates to honor the first spouses of the United States. The Abigail Adams coin was released on June 19, 2007, and sold out in just hours.

Abigail Adams quotes

  • “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”
  • “Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.”
  • “Great necessities call out great virtues.”
  • "The habits of a vigorous mind are formed contending with difficulties."
  • "If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?"
  • "I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in this province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me - to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have."

Intersting facts about Abigail Adams

  • Abigail's mother was part of Massachusetts's famous political Quincy family.
  • Abigail had no formal education but used her father’s large library to learn.
  • Abigail married John Adams when she was 19.
  • She was the first "Second Lady" (wife of the Vice President) and the second First Lady (wife of the President) of the United States.
  • Women's rights were important to Abigail, and she valued the education of women.
  • Abigail was the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States.
  • In the 2008 Siena Research Institute survey, Adams was ranked in the top-four of all criteria, ranking the 3rd-highest in of background, 2nd-highest in intelligence, 3rd-highest in value to the country, 3rd-highest in being her "own woman", 2nd-highest in integrity, 3rd-highest in her accomplishments, 3rd-highest in courage, 2nd-highest in leadership, 4th-highest in public image, and 2nd-highest in her value to the president.
  • In the 2014 survey, Adams and her husband were ranked the 5th-highest out of 39 first couples in terms of being a "power couple".

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See also

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