First Lady Abigail Adams Was a True Helpmate to America’s First Vice President and Second President

Abigail Adams has been praised by historians and at least one president, Harry Truman. As the second of the First Ladies, Abigail experienced firsthand the struggle of the nation and the founding of America. In fact, perhaps the Revolutionary War shaped her becoming First Lady.

Described as a true partner to America’s first vice president and second president, Abigail was a proud Massachusetts native. Born in 1744, she married John Adams, raised her children, and died in the same colony-turned-state. She named one of her children after her final resting place, a coastal Massachusetts city: Quincy. Abigail and John had six children—three daughters and three sons—and four of them lived to adulthood, with John Quincy Adams becoming the sixth US president.

Although a devoted mother, Abigail was an avid reader with a curious and often stern expression. Abigail’s sharp mind despite being 15 years old caught the attention of 24-year-old John, a country lawyer with a business in the Weymouth community where she was born and raised.

Epoch Times photo
Portrait of Abigail Adams aged 56 by artist Gilbert Stuart between 1800 and 1815. It was the only film of Mrs. Addams during Stuart’s tenure as First Lady. (public domain)

Witness the start of war

Throughout their courtship and subsequent 54-year marriage, at least 1,100 letters were exchanged between them. Abigail’s personality, interests and character are clearly revealed in well-preserved primary sources. One such letter captures Abigail’s courage. It was written after the Battle of Bunker Hill, during which she not only had her four young children but the then President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Dr. She also took care of Joseph Warren’s four children. His wife died a few years ago. Instead of staying in the relative safety of her home, 10 miles from the fighting, she watched the Penn Hill Granite Outcrop to watch the smoke billow from Charlestown.

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Later, when she learned that Warren had been killed in battle, she wrote to her husband: “My heart must find vent in my pen. Our dear friend Dr. I have heard that Warren is no more but fighting gloriously for his country — saying that it is better to die honorably in the field than hang ignominiously on the gallows. Our loss is great. ” She ends the letter, “I cannot compose myself to write further at present.”

The spot where Abigail bravely observed the start of the battle is now known as Abigail Adams Cairn, the Scottish word for memorial marker.

Competent Counsel

During the Eight Years War for Independence, as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and as a diplomat in France and Holland, Abigail and John were often estranged, Abigail solidifying her role as confidant and advisor. Letters between them showed how thoroughly she read and provided insight into documents, news reports and speeches. For example, the June 25, 1795, letter stated: “It is here reported that 19 senators are for the ratification of all but the 12th article of the treaty. Greenleaf’s paper contains some of the weakest stupid external sassy reflections and abuses on a daily basis.

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In one of her most quoted letters of March 31, 1776, she asks John pointed questions about the political and military aspects of the war. Later, she implores him to consider the concept of forward-thinking in his role as leader of the new nation: “I think I want you to remember the ladies in the new legal code. , and be more liberal and favorable to them than your ancestors. A plea to her husband on behalf of women was to make formal education free and easy, on the grounds that educated mothers could better prepare their sons to become smart citizens and leaders in the new republic.

Epoch Times photo
Presidential portrait of John Adams by Gilbert Stuart. The artist began both portraits in 1800 and took 15 years to complete them. John Quincy Adams relayed the family’s feelings about Stuart’s procrastination, writing, “Mr. Stuart thinks it the right of genius to decline the performance of his engagements. (Public domain)

Only the Addams family survived the Revolutionary War, which thrived. After American independence from Britain was secured, Abigail joined John in Europe for four years. John entertained and conversed with high-ranking officials and wealthy individuals during his time as a diplomat, and he did the same during his two terms as vice president (1789–1797) and president (1797–1801). However, she put her intellect and writing skills to good use by defending her husband and his policies.

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Abigail, the mother of his children, was more recognized than John’s wife and political hostess, the Gloucester and Boston essayist Judith Sargent Murray wrote to a cousin in 1798, “Every business of his administration is confidently asserted. Now laid before her – she is not only his best friend, but also his help in every emergency and his adviser … [so that the politicians] Declaring that the President was called out of time, he should see Mrs. Adams in the presidential chair more than any other character now existing in America.

This article was originally published in American Essence magazine.

Dina C.  Bowknight

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A 30-plus-year writer/journalist, Deanna C. Bouknight works from her western North Carolina mountain cottage and contributes articles on food culture, travel, people and more to local, regional, national and international publications. He has written three novels, including the only historical novel about the East Coast’s worst earthquake. Her website is


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