Abigail Smith Adams is best known for the letters she wrote for over a half century, but also she is historically visible because she was the wife of one president of the United States (John Adams, 1797–1801) and mother of another (John Quincy Adams, 1825–1829). The stream of her letters that began in the early 1760s and ended with her death in 1818 represents the most complete record that survives of a woman's experiences during the Revolutionary War era and subsequent decades in American history.
Abigail was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Her father was a Congregational minister and her mother descended from distinguished New England clergymen. Abigail's youth—indeed, most of her adult life—was spent in the countryside around Boston. As was typical for girls, she was educated at home. The great milestone in her young life was marriage to John Adams in 1764.
The Adams marriage coincided with the escalation of events that led to the Revolution, and during the next decade, while Abigail gave birth to four children (as well as others who did not survive to adulthood), John was lured into the politics that took him to distant places for the quarter of a century after 1774. This is significant, because Abigail remained at home in Braintree during the Revolutionary War, supporting her family and maintaining their farm. She also began to write the torrent of letters that have become the best surviving record of a New England woman's experience of the Revolutionary era.
For almost a decade Abigail took over John's role as breadwinner, supporting herself, her children, and her household. She managed their farm; she began a small business enterprise by selling locally items that John sent from Europe; she negotiated for and purchased property (in his name, since married women could not hold land in their own names); she speculated in currency and paid their taxes. She did all of this with the understanding that it was her patriotic duty in wartime. "The...
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