11 November 2009

Culture Spot : On This Day . . . 11 November – Happy Birthday Abigail Adams, 1st Second Lady & 2nd First Lady of the United States

First Ladies of the United States

On this day in 1744, Abigail Adams (née Smith) was born in town of Weymouth in the colony of Massachusetts. Of all the First Ladies of the United States, she is the one I most admire. She is most remembered thanks to her letters with her husband, John Adams, the first Vice President  and the second President of the United States. She was the mother of the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams. She was the first Second Lady of the United States. When her husband John Adams succeeded George Washington as President of the United States, Abigail became the second First Lady and the first to live in the White House.

The letters written between Abigail and John Adams well document their marriage relationship and exposes one of the greatest love stories in American history! The letters shed light on their emotional attachment and their mutual intellectual respect.

Abigail’s father, was a minister in the Congregational Church who preached the importance of reason and morality. Her mother was from the Quincy family, a very influential political family in the Massachusetts Colony. Although she did not receive a formal education due to frail health, her mother taught her and her sisters to read and write. She was also well versed in English and French literature. Thanks to her open-mindedness and idea’s on women’s rights and government, Abigail would become one of the most erudite First Ladies in American history. She would also be one of the most influential and politically active First Ladies. Her political opponents referred to her as “Mrs. President.”

She was also the first First Lady to live in the White House. In 1800, near the end of his term, the President and the First Lady moved into the President’s House, as it was known at the time, while it was still under construction by slave labor, a practice that both she and her husband abhorred!

President Adams lost his bid for re-election in 1800 to then Vice President Thomas Jefferson. Upon Jefferson’s inauguration, the Adams retired back to their home in Quincy, Massachusetts. During her time back in Quincy she closely followed the political career of her son, John Quincy Adams, and renewed correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, their one-time close friend and later political enemy. Thanks to this renewed correspondence, Abigail rekindled the close friendship that the Adams had with Thomas Jefferson.

On October 28, 1818, Abigail Adams died rom typhoid fever and unfortunately never had the pleasure of seeing her son, John Quincy Adams, elected the 6th President of the United States. She was just shy of her 74th birthday. Her last words to her husband were, "Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long."

To learn more about this great American First Lady, go to:






Watch excerpts from the 2008 HBO miniseries “John Adams” with scenes depicting Abigail Adams played by Laura Linney and John Adams played by Paul Giamatti:

The 2008 HBO series was based on the Pulitzer Prize winning biography John Adams by David McCullough. I read this book and I highly recommend it and the miniseries!!

You can buy the book and the series in DVD or Blu ray at Amazon !

I also very highly recommend the documentary American Experience: John and Abigail Adams (2005)

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