by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© July 2017, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
Abigail Adams was born in Massachusetts in 1744 and died in 1818. She lived through the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and wrote extensively about life during the war.
In addition, she played a very important role in the founding of the American nation. She was married to the second president of the United States, and her son became the sixth president of the nation.
Early life. Abigail was born into a poor family. Her father was a good man – a protestant minister who often preached about the importance of morality and reason. In those days, many ministers and preachers were powerful community and even political leaders. Her father influenced her regarding the importance of learning and knowledge.
Abigail was frequently sick as a child. Mainly for this reason, she did not attend school as a child. However, her parents made sure she could read and write very well. She also had access to several excellent libraries belonging to her father, her grandfather and an uncle.
She read widely. Among the subjects she enjoyed were ancient history, government, law, philosophy, theology, Shakespere, and the classics. Thanks to her reading, she became easily the best informed and most scholarly first lady America has ever had.
Except for reading, Abigail enjoyed few distractions as a child and young adult. In fact, she was often ill as a young adult. At 19, she married John Adams, a young attorney who was every bit as scholarly as she was. Together they studied the governments of every society in history that was known to Western society.
Adult life. John and Abigail had three sons and two daughters. Abigail did most of the child-rearing because her husband was frequently called away from home on business. He held a number of positions in the colonial government and was deeply involved in the dispute with Great Britain that ended in the Revoluationary War.
As a result of their frequent separations, Abigail started writing letters to her husband, and he to her, often every few days. These have become quite famous in American history.
John consulted Abigail on many matters of government, the impending revolt against England, and other political subjects of the day. She not only commented on the issues. She also kept him informed about the sentiments and activities in their home colony of Massachusetts. These letters continued all through the Revolutionary War and provide the best documentation of life during the war among the upper class people of that time.
In 1797, John Adams was elected president of the United States. This was quite a change for Abigail, as she became a very public figure. She did not like the nasty infighting that occurred in the political arena, and she was often attacked for her views on a variety of issues. A few of her private letters to her husband were even intercepted and made public, which made her very angry.
She was relieved when John Adams lost the election in 1801 to Thomas Jefferson, and she and John were able to return to a quiet life in Massachusetts. There she spent the next 17 years enjoying the families of her five children and their grandchildren. She continued to write back and forth to several friends, often commenting on political and legal issues that arose in the new American nation.