Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818

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Hailed for her now-famous admonition that the Founding Fathers “remember the ladies” in their new laws, Abigail Adams was not only an early advocate for women’s rights, she was a vital confidant and advisor to her husband John Adams, the nation’s second president. She opposed slavery and supported women’s education.

Born to a prominent family in Weymouth, Massachusetts on November 11, 1744, Adams’ father, Reverend William Smith, was part of a prestigious ministerial community within the Congregational Church. In 1764, Abigail married John Adams, a Harvard graduate beginning a law career. The couple moved to Adams’ farm in Braintree, south of Boston, and had three sons and two daughters. As her husband increasingly traveled as a lawyer, political revolutionary, and—after the Revolution—a diplomat, Abigail managed their farm and business affairs while raising the children. Although married women at this time had limited property rights, Adams began to refer to their property as hers. She also made investment decisions that enhanced the family’s prosperity.

From their earliest married days, the couple began an extensive correspondence, which provides insight into the social and political climate of the Revolutionary and Early National periods in American history. In 1776, as her husband participated in the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Adams wrote her most famous letter that the Founding Fathers “remember the ladies.” She added, “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.”

Though not exactly the feminist some historians have depicted her to be, Adams was concerned with greater protection for women under the new laws, as well as access to formal education. She allied with Judith Sargent Murray’s efforts to expand women’s education because Adams, too, saw mothers as having a vital role in preparing sons to be virtuous citizens and leaders in the new republic. Though John Adams did not take his wife’s letter seriously, throughout his life, he sought her opinions on political and other matters. She traveled with him throughout Europe for five years (1783-1788) during his stint as a diplomat. When he was elected president in 1797, Adams eagerly wrote to his wife, “I never wanted your Advice and assistance more in my life…” An outspoken First Lady, Adams often defended her husband’s positions, including his advocacy of the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts (1798).

In 1800, the Adams became the first First Family to occupy the White House, after the capital moved from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. When Adams lost his re-election bid in 1801, the couple retreated to Massachusetts, where Abigail maintained correspondence with political leaders including presidents Thomas Jefferson—who defeated her husband in a bitter election—and James Madison, as well as Dolley Madison, who remained influential after her husband’s death. Adams also worked for the political advancement of her son, John Quincy Adams, though she would not live to see his election as president in 1824.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Warren-Adams papers, 1767-1822. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Women in the Making of America: Women in Politics and Government United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Dudley, Frank Elijah, b. 1884. Poem "On Reading Abigail Adams's letter of June 6, 1785 [sic] from Bath Hotel, London [sic] to Thomas Jefferson in Paris" [manuscript] 1965 Apr. 29. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Marvin, Frederic Rowland, 1847-1918. The Frederic Rowland Marvin papers. 1915. University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Library
referencedIn Warren, Mercy Otis, 1728-1814. Mercy Otis Warren papers, 1709-1814 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
creatorOf Adams family. Adams family papers, 1639-1889, bulk: 1755-1889. Library of Congress
referencedIn Peabody, Stephen, 1741-1819. Diaries, 1767-1814. American Antiquarian Society
referencedIn Abigail Adams Smith Museum. Letters, 1755-1862, 1790-1830 (bulk) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Adams Mansion National Historic Site Photographs National Archives at Boston
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Autograph letter signed : Quincy, to Thomas Jefferson, 1804 May 20. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Cutts, Richard, 1771-1845. Papers of Richard Cutts, 1753-1886 (bulk 1802-1830). University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Owen, Richard, 1922-. Sketches of Abigail Adams / by Richard Owen. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Collection, n.y., n.d., 1775-1943 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Autograph File, A, 1518-2002. Houghton Library
referencedIn Florence Woolsey Hazzard papers, 1819-1976, 1925-1965 (bulk) Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. George Washington collection, 1749-1806, (bulk 1757-1799). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. Letters to Benjamin Rush and George Thompson: [manuscript], 1811-1825. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1870-1960 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Castle-Bache Collection, 1683-1922 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. ALS, [n.d.] : [s.l.], to unidentified correspondent. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Felt, Joseph B. (Joseph Barlow), 1789-1869. Shaw family papers, 1636-1892 (bulk 1770-1870). Library of Congress
referencedIn Johnson family. Johnson family papers, 1776-1937. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Letters, 1784-1816. American Antiquarian Society
referencedIn Dudley, Frank Elijah, b. 1884. On reading Abigail Adams's letter of June 6, 1785 from Bath Hotel, London, to Thomas Jefferson in Paris : manuscript, 1965. Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Thaxter family. Papers, 1774-1791. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Adams family. Smith-Carter family papers, 1669-1880. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Boswell's Life of Johnson : including Boswell's Journal of a tour to the Hebrides and Johnson's Diary of a journey into North Wales, edited by George Birkbeck Hill, extra-illustrated, 1464-1897 (inclusive), 1724-1874 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Hamlin, Joanne. Papers, 1975. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Irving Stone papers, 1923-1990s, (bulk 1934-1989) Bancroft Library
creatorOf Cushing, William, 1732-1810. Papers, 1664-1814. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Thomas Gage papers, Gage, Thomas, papers, 1754-1807, 1759-1775 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards. 1893 - 2008. Photographs and Graphic Materials Considered for Use as Illustrations in the Report quot;...To Form a More Perfect Union ...Justice for American Womenquot;
referencedIn Hazzard, Florence Woolsey, 1903-1992. Florence Woolsey Hazzard papers, 1819-1976, 1925-1965 (bulk). Cornell University Library
referencedIn Hill, Amy,. Abigail Adams house photographs, 1898-1947. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Florence Woolsey Hazzard Papers MS 76., 1940-1950 Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. The Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson manuscripts, 1705-1826. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Johnson family. Johnson family papers, 1776-1937. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Cranch family papers, 1758-1882. Library of Congress
creatorOf Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813. Papers, 1766-1845. Duke University, Medical Center Library & Archives
referencedIn Woman's rights collection, 1853-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn West Wall of Long Room National Archives at Boston
referencedIn [Adams papers : a series of articles from Life magazine]. Boston College. John J. Burns Library
referencedIn Topsfield Historical Society. Topsfield Historical Society Records, 1661-1970. Peabody Essex Museum
referencedIn Webster, Kate. Your affectionate Portia : Abigail Adams to John Adams during the American Revolution, a dramatic work for one actress : typescript, 1975. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. ALS, 1785 Jamuary 20 : Auteuil. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Adams, Brooks, 1848-1927. John Quincy Adams [typescript], ca. 1905-1909. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Shaw family. Papers, 1636-1892 (inclusive), 1770-1870 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn James Thomas Fields collection of autographs and portraits of distinguished women, 1814-1907. Houghton Library
referencedIn Stone, Irving, 1903-1989. Irving Stone papers, 1923-1990s (bulk 1934-1989). UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Adams family. Adams National Historical Park, Adams family papers, 1745-1927. Becton Dickinson Technology
referencedIn Biographical essays of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, 1975-ca. 1978 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Buchanan, Roberdeau, 1839-1916,. Collection, 1761-1831. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Williams, Julia Rush, 1792-1860. Commonplace book, 1809-1846. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Autograph letter signed : Philadelphia, to her sister, Mrs. Richard Cranch, 1800 May 16. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Dumas, Charles Guillaume Frédéric, ca. 1725-1780. Charles Guillaume Frédéric Dumas papers, 1775-1793. Library of Congress
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Letter, 1798 June 18 [n.p.], to Rev. Dr. Belknap, Boston. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Adams family. Papers, 1639-1899. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. Thomas Jefferson papers, 1606-1943 (bulk 1775-1826). Library of Congress
creatorOf Adams, John, 1735-1826. Letter, 1786 April 5, Buckingham, to Mrs. Adams [n.p.]. Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Adams Family papers, 1639-1899, 1639-1899 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Johnson family papers, 1776-1937 Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Warren, Mercy Otis, 1728-1814. Mercy Otis Warren papers, 1709-1814 (inclusive) [microform]. Stanford University Libraries
creatorOf Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. The Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson manuscripts, 1705-1827. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Smith-Townsend Family papers and papers II, 1670-1892. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Abigail Adams letters, 1797-1798, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Mrs. Esther Black, Quincy, Massachusetts. Duke University, Medical Center Library & Archives
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Letter : to Elizabeth Cranch Norton, 1785 March 8. Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Adams-Welsh corrspondence, 1790-1830. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf SIGNATURES OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA from George Washington to Dwight David Eisenhower, often with those of their wives, mostly cut from letters and documents; 1776-aft. 1952. Lacks the signature of Calvin Coolidge but includes (f... British Library
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Tudor-Adams correspondence, 1774-1823. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn War of 1812 mss., 1776-1879 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Lutz, Alma,. Collection of documents by and about abolitionists and women's rights activists: Part 1 (Ad-Lip), 1775-1943 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Green, Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott), 1830-1918. Papers, 1700-1916. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn President's Secretary's Files (Truman Administration). 1945 - 1960. Longhand Notes Files. 1945 - 1953. Longhand Notes - Presidential, 1944 - 1953: November 24, 1952. 1945 - 1953. Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Adams-Johnson-Lynch family papers, 1800-1903. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Gwathmey collection [manuscript], 1708-1852. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Woman's Rights Collection (WRC) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Smith, William Steuben, 1787-1850. William Steuben Smith diary and letterbook, 1809-1821. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Letter, 1808. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Adams Family Papers, 1776-1948, (bulk 1794-1846) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Owen, Richard, 1922-. Abigail Adams : opera in two acts / music and libretto by Richard Owen. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Cranch family. Cranch family papers, 1749-1882. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Autograph letter signed : Quincy, to Richard Rush, 1816 Aug. 21. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Norton, Jacob, 1764-1858. Jacob Norton papers, 1774-1840. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Library. Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection. 1668-1983. American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Autograph letter signed : Washington, to Henry Wheaton, 1818 Mar. 10. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Henry, Pauline E. Autograph letters from John Adams and John Quincy Adams, 1781-1829 [microform] / presented by Pauline E. Henry, grand-daughter of Francis Adrian Van der Kemp. University of West Georgia, Irvine Sullivan Ingram Library
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818,. Adams family letters, 1787-1801. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Adams family. Adams-Hull collection, 1775-1856. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Museum of the City of New York. Letters collection, 1670-1950, 1775-1930 (bulk). Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf De Windt family. Papers, 1779-1841. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Strauss, Herbert R., 1899-1974,. Herbert R. Strauss collection of Adams family letters, 1763-1829. Newberry Library
referencedIn Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606-1943, (bulk 1775-1826) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Adams family papers, 1776-1948 (bulk 1794-1846). Library of Congress
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. ALS, 1800 October 18 : Quincy, to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Philadelphia. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Autograph letter signed "A.A." : Philadelphia, 1800 Jan. 9. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Norcross, Grenville H., 1854-1937. Grenville H. Norcross autograph collection, 1489-1937. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Shaw Family Papers, 1636-1892, (bulk 1770-1870) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Adams National Historic Site Photographs of National Register of Historic Places National Archives at Boston
referencedIn Subject Files on John Adams and Abigail Adams, 1/20/1981 - 1/20/1989 Ronald Reagan Library
referencedIn Papers of Doris Stevens, 1884-1983 (inclusive), 1920-1960 (bulk Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Johnson, A. B. (Alexander Bryan), 1786-1867. Letters received, 1811-1870 ; bulk: 1811-1831. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Abigail Adams letters, 1784-1794. Peabody Essex Museum
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Autograph letter signed : Braintree, to Elbridge Gerry, 1784 Mar. 19. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Porter, Horace, 1837-1921. Papers, 1923. Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian, 1752-1829. Collection, 1781-1829. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818,. Autograph letter signed from Abigail Adams to Catherine Elizabeth Rush, 1816 December 18. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn Hazzard, Florence W. (Florence Woolsey). Papers, 1940-1950. Smith College, Neilson Library
creatorOf Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818. Anna E. Roth collection, 1639-1897. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Cranch, Christopher Pearse, 1813-1892. Christopher P. Cranch papers, 1782-1928. Library of Congress
referencedIn Henry Oscar Houghton papers, 1773-1932 (bulk 1833-1895) Houghton Library
referencedIn Autograph File, A, 1518-2002. Houghton Library
referencedIn Landauer, Bella Clara, 1874-1960. Collection, 1762-1941 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Adams, James Taylor. Engravings of members of the Adams family [manuscript]. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Vertical file of John Adams and Abigail Adams portraits. Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abigail Adams Smith Museum. corporateBody
ancestorOf Adams, Brooks, 1848-1927. person
grandparentOf Adams, Charles Francis, 1807-1886 person
ancestorOf Adams, Charles Francis, 1835-1915 person
memberOf Adams family family
memberOf Adams family family
memberOf Adams family. family
memberOf Adams family. family
memberOf Adams family. person
ancestorOf Adams, Henry, 1838-1918 person
spouseOf Adams, John, 1735-1826. person
parentOf Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848. person
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith ALMA LUTZ, 1890-1973 person
associatedWith Bache, Benjamin Franklin, 1769-1798 person
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820 person
associatedWith Belknap, Jeremy, 1744-1798. person
correspondedWith Boswell, James, 1740-1795 person
associatedWith Buchanan, Roberdeau, 1839-1916, person
associatedWith Castle family family
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Coxe, John Redman, 1773-1864. person
associatedWith Cranch, Christopher Pearse, 1813-1892. person
associatedWith Cranch, Elizabeth. person
associatedWith Cranch family. family
associatedWith Cranch, Lucy Greenleaf, 1767-1846. person
associatedWith Cranch, Mary Smith, 1741-1811. person
associatedWith Cranch, Richard, Mrs., fl. 1800, person
associatedWith Cushing, William, 1732-1810. person
associatedWith Cutts, Richard, 1771-1845. person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith De Windt family. family
associatedWith Doris Stevens person
associatedWith Dudley, Frank Elijah, b. 1884. person
correspondedWith Dumas, Charles Guillaume Frédéric, ca. 1725-1780. person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Fields, James Thomas, 1817-1881 person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Gage, Thomas, 1721-1787 person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gerry, Elbridge, 1744-1814, person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Green, Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott), 1830-1918. person
associatedWith Hamlin, Joanne. person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
associatedWith Hazzard, Florence W. (Florence Woolsey) person
associatedWith Hazzard, Florence Woolsey, 1903-1992 person
associatedWith Henry, Pauline E. person
associatedWith History of Medicine Collections (Duke University) corporateBody
correspondedWith Houghton, Henry Oscar, 1823-1895 person
associatedWith Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. family
correspondedWith Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. person
associatedWith Johnson, A. B. (Alexander Bryan), 1786-1867. person
associatedWith Johnson family family
associatedWith Johnson family. family
associatedWith Johnson family. family
associatedWith Landauer, Bella Clara, 1874-1960. person
associatedWith Lutz, Alma, person
associatedWith Marvin, Frederic Rowland, 1847-1918 person
associatedWith Maud May (Wood) Park, 1871-1955 person
associatedWith Morgan, Henry S., Mrs, person
associatedWith Museum of the City of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith National Society of the Colonial Dames of America corporateBody
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith Norcross, Grenville H., 1854-1937. person
correspondedWith Norton, Elizabeth (Cranch), 1763-1811 person
associatedWith Norton, Jacob, 1764-1858. person
associatedWith Owen, Richard, 1922- person
associatedWith Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955. person
associatedWith Peabody, Stephen, 1741-1819. person
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
associatedWith Porter, Horace, 1837-1921. person
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813. person
correspondedWith Rush, Catherine Elizabeth, fl. 1816 person
associatedWith Rush, Richard, 1780-1859, person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
correspondedWith Shaw family family
associatedWith Shaw family. family
parentOf Smith, Abigail Adams, 1765-1813. person
grandparentOf Smith, William Steuben, 1787-1850. person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Stone, Irving, 1903-1989 person
associatedWith Stone, Irving, 1903-1989. person
correspondedWith Strauss, Herbert R., 1899-1974, person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
associatedWith Thaxter family. family
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
associatedWith Topsfield Historical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian, 1752-1829. person
associatedWith Warren, Mercy Otis, 1728-1814. person
associatedWith Washington, George, 1732-1799. person
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
associatedWith Webster, Kate. person
associatedWith Wheaton, Henry, 1785-1848, person
associatedWith Williams, Julia Rush, 1792-1860. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
District of Columbia DC US
London ENG GB
New York City NY US
Quincy MA US
Weymouth MA US
Braintree MA US
Paris A8 FR
Boston MA US
Philadelphia PA US
Subject
President's spouses
Women--Correspondence
First ladies
Rural women
Farm life
Occupation
Authors
Suffragists
Historians
Presidents' spouses--United States
Function

Person

Birth 1744-11-22

Death 1818-10-28

Female

Americans

English

Information

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