Abigail Adams is only one of two women to be the First Lady of the United States and to be the mother of a future President as well. Born on November 11, 1744, she was a preacher’s kid who had a mother who was heavily involved in politics. She was homeschooled until the age of 11 not because of her parent’s religious beliefs or lack of faith in the school system, but because she was continuously ill until that age. Her illness did not stop her from making an impact on the country that she loved.
1. Married at the Age of 19
Abigail would meet her husband John for the first time at the age of 15. She was attracted to philosophy and literature and John was attracted to her because of her intelligence and sense of humor. After that first initial meeting, they would be introduced again a couple years later and begin a formal courtship. The two were married in October 1764 when Abigail was 19 years old. The couple courted for 3 years before getting married.
2. A First Born Named After Her
We are often familiar with families that pass along a name to their male children. For the Adams’, their first born was a daughter. She was also given the name Abigail, but her nickname was Nabby so that there wasn’t as much confusion in the home. Their first child was born in 1765, about a year after their marriage. Their second child, John Quincy [who would become the 6th President] was born in 1767. The couple had six children in all.
3. A First For the Nation
Abigail Adams hold the distinction of being the first First Lady who would reside full-time at the White House. Considering her husband was the 2nd President after George Washington, she didn’t have much competition for this title. She used her position in the White House to act as an informal adviser and she primarily worked to advocate for equal public education opportunities and other equal rights for women in the newly formed United States.
4. A Deep Hatred of Slavery
Abigail Adams was one of the first and loudest opponents of slavery in the US. She hated it not because of the practice of it, but because she feared that slavery was one of the greatest threats to the newly formed democracy. Abigail frequently advocated for emancipation, something that would finally be achieved nearly 6 decades later. Her fears about slavery destroying the nation would attempt to come true, but thankfully the nation was eventually able to heal after the Civil War, which would have broken her heart if seen.
5. Thousands of Letters
When you can’t send emails or texts to your loved one, what would you do? For John and Abigail, they would exchange more than 1,000 letters over a 40 year period that started during their initial courtship and lasted until they would reach the White House. The letters helped to keep their relationship strong, even during the trying times. These letters can still be seen today as they are held with all of the family papers in the Massachusetts Historical Society.
6. A Community of One
When her husband John was getting more actively involved with the Revolution, Abigail often found herself managing the household on her own. Not only did she have her own children, but she was also tending to the children of a family friend who had been killed during the battles for independence. Some of the key battles of the war were fought just a few miles from her home, so escaping and wounded soldiers took refuge in her home and even trained on the property. At one point, legend says that Abigail melted all of her silverware so that more ammunition could be created for the muskets.
7. The Opposite of Martha
Abigail took her daughter to Europe for some time because she missed her husband so greatly, which helped to fuel her aggressive attitudes toward political policies. She was so different from Martha Washington, who was a close friend of hers, that her primary fear was that the American public would despise her. That fear didn’t cause her to back down, however, and much of the more formal role of the First Lady was created because of her firm support of issues.
Abigail Adams was a strong, courageous woman who defined the role of First Lady. She did not get to see her son become President because of typhoid fever, but that may be the only real regret she would have if asked today.