Abigail Adams Biography

Early Life
Abigail Smith (Adams) was born on November 11, 1744, in Weymouth, Massachusetts. She was the second child born to Elizabeth Quincy Smith and the Reverend William Smith. Her father was Pastor of Weymouth's North Parish Congregational Church and one of the best educated and most prosperous citizens of the community. As a religious man, he taught Abigail to respect God and to help others in any way she could. Abigail's mother, Elizabeth Smith, spent much of her time visiting the sick and bringing food, clothing and firewood to needy families. From the time she was a young woman, Abigail accompanied her mother on these visits and put into practice the lessons her father taught her about helping those who were less fortunate. New England schools of the time usually admitted only boys, and girls were instructed at home. Few people believed that woman needed much learning. Such limitations did not satisfy Abigail, and she began to educate herself by reading the books in her father's library. She was well versed in many subjects and was one of the most well read woman in eighteenth century America. However, Abigail regretted that she did not have the opportunity to pursue a formal education that was reserved only for men. Abigail learned a great deal during her frequent stays with her grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, who was one of the most important citizens in the colony of Massachusetts. He served in several positions throughout his career, including being a colonel in the militia, and Speaker of the House of Representatives. Colonel Quincy's sense of public service and active concern for the community helped to shape young Abigail's values and provided her with a sense of public duty. Colonel Quincy and his guests made the future first lady aware of the importance of freedom and America's aspirations to control her own destiny.

Marriage and Pre-Revolutionary Years
As a woman of the 1700's, Abigail could understand her nation's thirst for independence, because she longed for it herself. Though the future first lady knew that her life would be decided by her choice of a husband, Abigail wanted a husband who was her intellectual equal and one who would appreciate her accomplishments. It was not long before Abigail met such a man, John Adams, a young lawyer from nearby Braintree. During their two-year courtship, the young couple spent long periods apart and relied upon letter writing to keep in touch. On October 25, 1764, Abigail's father presided over the wedding of his daughter to John Adams. The young couple moved into the house John had inherited form his father in Braintree (today a part of the National Park Service, Adams National Historic Site) and began their life together. John and Abigail's marriage was successful from the outset. Abigail proved to be exceptionally capable of managing the family's finances and the household. Meanwhile, John's career took a dramatic turn for the better. He began to ride the court circuit (traveling from one district to another). John's frequent absences from home and family were prelude to more painful separations in the years ahead. However, the young couple was willing to endure personal hardships for the good of their family and the nation. On July 11, 1767 in the Adamses' little farmhouse, Abigail gave birth to John Quincy Adams. In the spring of the following year, John Adams moved his family to Boston, because his work was located there. The Adams family became a part of a social circle that included such patriots as John's cousin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, James Otis, and Joseph Warren. But there was little time for socializing because dramatic events in Boston were overshadowing all other concerns. Abigail's loyalty to her husband was tested by one such event, the Boston Massacre, on March 5, 1770. At the risk of his own popularity and career, John Adams chose to defend eight British soldiers and their captain, accused of murdering five Americans. Although John was an ardent patriot and favored independence, he felt the soldiers had acted properly and had been provoked into firing by an unruly mob. Also, he felt it was important to prove to the world that the colonists were not under mob rule, lacking direction and principles, and that all men were entitled to due process of law. Most Americans, driven by emotion, were angry with Adams for defending the hated "redcoats," but throughout the ordeal Abigail supported her husband's decision. In the end, Adams was proven correct and all nine of the men were acquitted of the murder charges. Despite diffusing of this crisis, far greater ones were destined to be part of the course of events in the colonies. more...

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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