Adams, Louisa Catherine, 1775-1852Variant names
Louisa Catherine Adams, the first of America’s First Ladies to be born outside of the United States, did not come to this country until four years after she had married John Quincy Adams. Political enemies sometimes called her English. She was born in London to an English mother, Catherine Nuth Johnson, but her father was American–Joshua Johnson, of Maryland–and he served as United States consul after 1790.
A career diplomat at 27, accredited to the Netherlands, John Quincy developed his interest in charming 19-year-old Louisa when they met in London in 1794. Three years later they were married, and went to Berlin in course of duty. At the Prussian court she displayed the style and grace of a diplomat’s lady; the ways of a Yankee farm community seemed strange indeed in 1801 when she first reached the country of which she was a citizen. Then began years divided among the family home in Quincy, Massachusetts, their house in Boston, and a political home in Washington, D.C.
She left her two older sons in Massachusetts for education in 1809 when she took two-year-old Charles Francis to Russia, where her husband would serve as Minister until 1814. Despite the glamour of the tsar’s court, she had to struggle with cold winters, strange customs, limited funds, and poor health; an infant daughter born in 1811 died the next year. After her husband was named Minister to the United Kingdom, Adams spent two years living once more in the country of her birth.
Appointment of John Quincy as Monroe’s Secretary of State brought the Adamses to Washington in 1817. The pleasure of moving to the White House in 1825 after her husband's election was dimmed by the bitter politics of the election and by Louisa's own poor health. The necessary entertainments were always elegant, however; and her cordial hospitality made the last official reception a gracious occasion although her husband had lost his bid for re-election and partisan feeling still ran high.
Louisa thought she was retiring to Massachusetts permanently, but in 1831 her husband began 17 years of notable service in the House of Representatives. The Adamses could look back on a secure happiness as well as many trials when they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary at Quincy in 1847. He was fatally stricken at the Capitol the following year; she died in Washington in 1852, and today lies buried at his side in the family church at Quincy.
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|Presidents' spouses--United States|