Abigail Adams: Most Notable Accomplishments

The year was 1762, Abigail Smith, a 17-year-old Weymouth, Massachusetts-born woman meets her third cousin and childhood friend John Adams. After the meeting, John Adams, who was then a young, practicing Bostonian lawyer in his mid-twenties, is taken aback by Abigail’s intellect and beauty. Three years later, the two tie the knot at a ceremony in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

In a marriage that produced five children and lasted up until Abigail’s death in 1818, Abigail Adams, the woman who would later come to be known as ‘Mrs. President’, stood beside her husband through it all. As the American Revolutionary War raged on Abigail was trusted by Adams to manage all the affairs of the home. Although they were separated most of the time during the war, the more than 1,000 letters that were exchanged give us a picture of just how strong a bond existed between the couple. In a good number of those correspondences, Abigail entreats her husband, who was then a key member of the American Revolutionaries, to pay very close attention to rights and freedoms of women in the new nation that Adams and his compatriots were fighting to establish.

A key Founding Mother of the United States, Abigail Adams joined forces with several other women, including Deborah Franklin and Martha Washington, in supporting the cause of America’s independence from Great Britain. Abigail Adams was no mere wife of America’s second president. Her wise and brave words had tremendous amount of influence all throughout her husband’s political career. She demonstrated an unflinching loyalty, standing beside President Adams during the turbulent times of his tenure, including the XYZ Affair as well the various Alien and Sedition Acts.

In the article below World History Edu delves into the life and major accomplishments of Abigail Adams, the second First Lady of the United States.

Abigail Adams: Fast Facts

Born: Abigail Smith

Date of Birth: November 22, 1744

Place of birth: Weymouth, Massachusetts Bay, British America

Died: October 28, 1818

Place of death: Quincy, Massachusetts, United States

Aged: 73

Parents: William Smith and Elizabeth Smith

Spouse: John Adams

Marriage to John Adams: 1764

First Lady of the United States: 1797-1801

Children: Abigail (“Nabby”), John Quincy Adams, Grace Susanna, Charles, Thomas, Elizabeth

Most known for: Second First Lady of the United States

Major Achievements of Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams – facts and achievements | Portrait of Adams by Benjamin Blyth, 1766

Below we take a look at the major achievements of Abigail Adams, one of the most documented of the First Ladies of the United States.

She managed her husband’s finances wisely during the Revolutionary War

Abigail and her husband made Boston their permanent residence until the lead up to the Revolutionary War when they relocated to the countryside. This move was necessitated due to Boston being the hotbed of anti-Great Britain sentiments. John Adams then proceeded to practice law, making his name for defending the accused perpetrators of the Boston Massacre in 1770.

While her husband was away on colonial engagements and attending the First Continental Congress in 1774, Abigail rose to the challenge and managed all of her husband’s estates and finances. She is said to have invested wisely in many revolutionary war bonds. During the presidency of George Washington, the Adams raked in a lot of returns from those bonds after Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton obtained Congressional approval to pay the United States’ war debt.

Abigail Adams had strong influence on President Adams all throughout his political career

John Adams 1766 portrait by Benjamin Blyth

From the over thousand letters that Abigail and John wrote each other, we given an insight into just how much of an influence Abigail Adams had on the political career of Founding Father John Adams. Even though she did not get any formal education, Abigail Adams was a very intellectually astute woman who had the capability to give sound advice to her partner. John Adams on many occasions was full of nothing but gratitude for his wife’s wise counsel, approval, and unwavering support.

Related Post: Who were the Founding Fathers of the United States?

She did not let the lack of formal education stop her from making meaningful contribution to her nation

When Abigail Adams was growing up, she felt very disappointed that her parents, like many other 18th century American families, refused to give her formal education. Even at that young age, Abigail could not hide her displeasure for the unfair treatment meted out to her and her sisters – Mary Smith (born in 1739-1811) and Elizabeth Smith (1742-1816). Not the kind to give up on developing her mind, she read profusely many of the books in her male relatives’ libraries. She was not the kind to settle for being a just a helpless and ineffectual spouse in future.

She was by the side of John Adams throughout his diplomatic stint in Europe

After our nation won the Revolutionary War in 1783, John Adams, one of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence, was made ambassador to France. Although Abigail was initially reluctant to move with her husband to Europe, she eventually came to love her stay in France. She moved to France with her two eldest children – Abigail “Nabby” and John Quincy. While in France, she picked a strong affection for French opera and theater. She also moved with her husband to London when John Adams was appointed the leading diplomat to London. Abigail was there to offer a listening ear to Adams throughout his five-year stay in Europe.

Abigail Adams’s husband John Adams was part of the Committee of Five that drafted and presented to the full Congress what would become the United States Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776. Image: John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence depicts the Committee of Five presenting its draft to Congress. Adams is depicted in the center with his hand on his hip.

She was one of the first notable figures in the history of the United States to promote women’s rights and political representation

It is safe to say that she was one of the first notable American women to champion the course of women’s rights, education and equality. This feminist resolve of hers was evident in one of her most famous letters to her husband John Adams, who at the time was busy with a host of affairs of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

Abigail Adams warned her husband as well as the leading patriarchs of the nation that was about to be formed to not ignore all the mothers, daughters and sisters that were fighting along their side to secure independence from Great Britain. She instructed her husband and his associates in Congress to be “more generous and favorable” to women than what was in the past. Mrs. Adams goes on to say that the nation risked having a full-fledged rebellion and social instability if men left the women out of key decision making process of the nation. The letter shows just how Adams was way ahead of her time.

Unlike many of the leading politicians and Congress members, who were by the way all men at time, Abigail Adams knew of dire consequences of sidelining women and not giving them any political rights in the United States. In other words, Abigail Adams can be credited with laying the first pillars of the women suffrage movement for the likes of suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Emmeline Pankhurst to build upon.

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams on women’s rights, equality and freedom

While the pillars of nation were being built in Philadelphia in the mid-1775, Abigail Adams pleaded with her husband John Adams to factor in the voices of women and begin a process that would secure women’s by law. The letter she penned to her husband ended up being famously used by members of the women’s suffrage movement for almost a century. In other words, she was one of the few Founding Mothers of the United States who appealed to their husbands to write laws to protect women from all forms of abuse at the hands of men. She also tried to convince her husband to push for laws that give women education and to own property. She was undoubtedly displeased with the unfair laws of the time that made women the legal property of their husbands. The fact that wives could not own property also deeply infuriated her.

She was well-versed in many of the political and social issues of the time

Not only was Abigail Adams a capable life partner of John Adams, managing the household and taking care of their children, she was a very important advisor to her husband all throughout his political career. From John Adams’s years as a key member of the Continental Congress to his term as president of the United States, Abigail Adams steadfastly stood beside him. Far from content with just being a spouse, she offered invaluable contributions to her husband during his 8-year term (from 1789 to 1797) as the first Vice President of the United States, serving under George Washington.

Also stemming from her drive for gender equality, Abigail Adams was known for her opposition to slavery in America.

Abigail Adams was President John Adams’s most trustworthy advisor and confidant

Abigail Adams’s husband – 2nd US President John Adams

Following her husband John Adams election as the second president of the United States in 1796, Abigail Adams worked hard to advance the role that her predecessor Martha Washington (wife of George Washington) had established. In 1800, she and her husband became the first American family to move into the Presidential Mansion (later called White House) in Washington, D.C.

As she was well versed in many of the political and social issue of the time, she was able to go beyond the role of being society hostess during Adams’ term as president. Abigail Adams was not content with only organizing Fourth of July celebrations and hosting state dinner parties; she actively got involved in the political environment of the time. Her wisdom and abilities allowed her to be the president’s most trusted political advisor. President Adams’s political rivals even took to calling her “Mrs. President”, a reflection of just how much influence she had in the White House.

Did you know: Abigail Adams and Barbara Bush (wife of President George H.W. Bush) are the only two women in the history of the United States to be married to one U.S. president and the mother of another?

She defended her husband in the press

Abigail was the kind of spouse who stayed through thick and thin of her husband’s political career. After the family had moved to nation’s new capital Washington, D.C., she came under immense stress due to the slightly harsh conditions of her new environment. The capital back then was swampy and insect-infested, with summer temperatures very high.

The Presidential House that Abigail and husband lived in was anything but complete. The first lady even had to hang out her laundry in one of the wings of the mansion in order to keep it out of the rain. To make matters worse, she struggled to get the domestic servants to help her manage the huge mansion. In spite of all of those challenges taking a huge toll on her health, she continued to soldier on, caring for many of her grandchildren including her son Charles’s children. Charles had died of alcoholism in 1800.

Abigail Adams also supported her husband, speaking extremely fondly of him in the press. She was undoubtedly President Adams rock and shield. When Adams came under immense criticism for his unpopular Alien and Sedition Acts, Abigail stood by his side, offering encouragement and undiluted support. She was also there to lift his morale when he lost the 1800 presidential election (to fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson) as a result of those unpopular acts.

Abigail and her husband returned to their home Peacefield in Quincy, Massachusetts, where she continued to raise and educate her grandchildren, particularly the children of her son John Quincy Adams. At the time, John Quincy, who later became the sixth president of the United States, was out of the country serving as ambassador to Russia.

Other notable achievements of Abigail Adams

She remained relatively influential after her term as first lady was over. Although her husband and his successor Thomas Jefferson did not see eye to eye on some issues, Abigail Adams is said to have maintained a very healthy relationship with the 3rd president of the United States Thomas Jefferson. She had several correspondences with President Jefferson and President James Madison.

Similar to love, support and advice she gave to her husband John Adams, Abigail Adams proved extremely important in supporting her son John Quincy Adams’ political career. She lived long enough to see her son appointed Secretary of State under President James Monroe. Her death in 1818 meant that she did not get the chance to see John Quincy elected the sixth president of the United States in 1825.

More Abigail Adams facts

Abigail Adams

She was born in the North Parish congregational Church in Weymouth, Massachusetts, British America.

Her father – William smith – was a church minister and a prominent member of the community known for his very liberal ideas. In many of Abigail’s father teachings and sermons, he paid more attention on reasoning, morality and bit of women’s rights. This was in sharp contrast to the general sermons of the time which focused on original sin, doom and predestination.

Her mother, Elizabeth Smith, was a descendant of the Quincy family who were famous politicians in Massachusetts at the time. Her mother’s cousin Dorothy Quincy was the wife of American Founding Father and statesman John Hancock.

Abigail Adams’s mother died of smallpox in July 1775, the year that America Revolutionary War began.

She is said to have been displeased because she and her three sisters did not get the formal education that her brother had. Regardless, she and her sisters did get some form of basic education kind courtesy to her mother and grandmother.

Abigail also took to reading many books on different subjects in the libraries of her father and other male relatives.

She first met her future husband John Adams at the age of 16. Her older sister’s fiancé had invited the young Massachusetts lawyer Adams to dinner. Interestingly John Adams did not make such a good impression on Abigail’s mother, who stated that Adams lacked some bit of polished manners. Regardless Abigail and John Adams went ahead with their relationship and eventually got married on October 25, 1764. Her father was the one who presided over the ceremony which was held at Weymouth.

Abigail Adams died in 1818 aged 73. She died of typhoid fever. She was survived by her husband John Adams and her  two of her children – Thomas Boylston Adams and John Quincy Adams. She was buried at the United First Parish Church. When her husband John Adams died aged 90, he was laid next to her.

Abigail Adams’s children and family tree

Abigail and John Adams had six children – Abigail, John Quincy, Susanna, Charles, Thomas, and Elizabeth. Their last child Elizabeth was still born. Their first child Abigail was born about nine months after their wedding. The six children came in the first 12 years of the marriage. Susana died at the age of two. John Quincy Adams would follow in his father’s footstep and go on to become a prominent lawyer and then later the 6th President of the United States. Abigail Adams is therefore one of two women in the history of the United States to be have her husband and son become commanders-in-chief. The other woman was Barbara Bush, wife of George Bush Sr.

Famous quotes by Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams quotes

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