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, for her diligence and insight. As the second of the first ladies, Abigail experienced firsthand the struggle for the nation and the establishment of America. In fact, it may have been the Revolutionary War that shaped who she would become as First Lady.

Abigail was described as a true partner to America’s first vice president and second president, a proud native of Massachusetts. Born in 1744, she married John Adams, raised children, and died in the same colony-turned-state. She even named one of her children after the coastal Massachusetts town that would become her final resting place: Quincy. Abigail and John had six children—three daughters and three sons—and four of them lived to adulthood, and John Quincy Adams became the sixth President of the United States.

Although Abigail was a devoted mother, she was also an avid reader with a curious and often stubborn face. It was her sharp mind, even at the age of 15, that attracted the attention of 24-year-old John, a country lawyer practicing in the community of Weymouth, where Abigail was born and raised.

Epoch Times photo
Portrait of Abigail Adams, 56, by artist Gilbert Stuart, 1800-1815. It was the only portrait Stuart completed of Mrs. Adams while she was First Lady. (Public Domain)

A witness to the beginning of the war

Throughout their courtship and 54 years of marriage, the two exchanged at least 1,100 letters. Abigail’s personality, interests and character are clearly revealed in the well-preserved primary sources. One such letter reflects Abigail’s fortitude. It was written after the Battle of Bunker Hill, during which she was caring not only for her four young children, but also for the four children of Dr. Joseph Warren, then president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. His wife died a few years ago. Instead of staying in the relative safety of their home, 10 miles from the fighting, she crept to the granite outcrop of Penn Hill and watched the smoke rise from the burning Charlestown.

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After learning that Warren had been killed in battle, she wrote to her husband: “My breaking Heart must find an outlet for my pen. I have just heard that our dear friend Dr. Warren has already fallen gloriously fighting for his country, saying that it is better to die honorably in the field than hang dishonorably on the gallows. Our great loss. She ends the letter: “I cannot bring myself to continue writing at this time.”

The place where Abigail bravely watched the war begin is now called Abigail Adams Cairn. A cairn is the Scottish term for a memorial marker.

An able advisor

During the eight-year War of Independence, when Abigail and John often disagreed over the role of delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and as diplomat in France and Holland, Abigail strengthened her role as his confidante. adviser The letters written between them showed how she read documents, news reports and speeches to the letter and made her understand. For example, in 1795 June 25 the letter read: “It is hereby reported that 19 senators are in favor of ratifying all but Article 12 of the Treaty. There are some weak stupid superficial reflections and abuses in Greenleafs paper every day.

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In one of his most quoted letters, dated 1776, March 31, she asks John specific questions about the political and military aspects of the war. She then urges him to consider a forward-looking idea as the leader of the new nation: “In the new code of laws that I think you will have to enforce, I want you to remember the ladies. and be more generous and kind to them than your ancestors. One appeal to her husband on behalf of women was to make formal education free and accessible, one reason being that educated mothers could better prepare their sons to become skilled citizens and leaders in the new republic.

Epoch Times photo
Gilbert Stuart’s presidential portrait of John Adams. The artist began creating both portraits in 1800, and it took 15 years to complete them. John Quincy Adams conveyed the family’s sentiment regarding Stuart’s delay, stating, “Mr. Stuart considers it the prerogative of a genius to despise his engagement. (Public Domain)

The Adams family not only survived the Revolutionary War, but also prospered. Abigail joined John in Europe four years after American independence from Great Britain was secured. While John was a diplomat, she entertained and socialized with high-ranking officials and wealthy individuals. She did the same during his two terms as vice president (1789–1797) and one term as president (1797–1801). But she also put her intelligence and writing skills to good use in defense of her husband and his policies.

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Abigail was recognized as more than John’s wife, mother of his children, and political mistress, as essayist Judith Sargent Murray of Gloucester and Boston wrote in 1798. wrote to a cousin: “It is truly asserted that every transaction of his administration. is now laid before her—she is not only his bosom friend, but also his helper and adviser in all emergencies… [so that the politicians] declare that the President was called out of time, they should rather see Mrs. Adams in the President’s chair than any other character now in America.

This article was originally published in American Essence.

Deena C. Bouknight

Follow up

For more than 30 years, writer/journalist Deena C. Bouknight has worked from her Western North Carolina mountain cottage and contributed articles on food culture, travel, people, and more. in local, regional, national and international publications. She has written three novels, including the only historical fiction about the East Coast’s worst earthquake. Her website is


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