Abigail Adams was born on November 22, 1744, in the North Parish Congregational Church in Weymouth, Massachusetts, to Reverend William Smith and Elizabeth Quincy Smith. She was their second born and had one brother and two sisters: Mary Smith Cranch (1739/1741-1811), William Smith (1746-1787), Elizabeth (Betsy) Smith Shaw Peabody (1750-1815).
The Reverend William Smith (born January 29, 1706,
Massachusetts; died September 2783, )
was a liberal Congregationalist minister and a leader in society as was his
forebears. He emphasized the importance
of reason and morality instead of teaching predestination, original sin, or the
full divinity of Christ. He was a
supporter of the American Revolution and was known as the father of Abigail
Adams, the father-in-law of John Adams, and the grandfather of John Quincy
Adams. Weymouth, Massachusetts
Elizabeth Quincy (born 1721,
died 1775, ; married in 1740) was the
daughter of John Quincy, a member of the colonial Governor's council and
colonel of the militia. Mr. Quincy was
also Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly for 40 years, ending at his death at
age 77. His interest in politics and his
public service had a great influence on Abigail. Through her mother, Abigail was a cousin of
Dorothy Quincy, the wife of John Hancock.
She was also a great-granddaughter of the Rev. John Norton, founding
pastor of Old Ship Church in Weymouth, Massachusetts Hingham, Massachusetts - the only remaining 17th-century Puritan
meetinghouse in . Massachusetts
Abigail's ancestors were English and Welsh. Her paternal great-grandfather, Thomas Smith, was born May 10, 1645, and left
Dartmouth, England, to immigrate to . One of Abigail's great-great-great
grandmothers came from a Welsh family.
Abigail's genealogy has been well-researched and her known roots
preceded her birth by six centuries. She
descended from royal lines in Charleston, Massachusetts France,
Germany, Belgium, Hungary,
Italy, Ireland, and . Switzerland
Abigail Smith was too sickly to receive formal schooling, but she and her sisters were taught to read, write, and cipher by
their mother. The large libraries belonging to their father, uncle, and maternal grandfather enabled the girls to study English and French literature. Abigail took special interest in philosophy, theology, Shakespeare, the classics, ancient history, government and law.
Even though Abigail had no formal education, she was later known for advocating public education for girls equal to that given to boys. Abigail was "an intellectually open-minded woman for her day" and had some distinct ideas on women's rights and government. Her ideas eventually had a major but indirect effect on the founding of the
. She was "one of the most erudite women
ever to serve as First Lady." United States
Abigail was described as being five feet 1 inch tall with brown hair and brown eyes. There is no documentation showing that she worked in the parsonage activities with her father. She was often in poor health and spent her time reading and writing letters. She did not play cards, sing, or dance.
John and Abigail were third cousins and knew each other as children. John's friend, Richard Cranch, was engaged to Abigail's older sister, Mary, when the two gentlemen visited the Smith home in 1762. Abigail was 17 years old and perpetually reading, but John was quickly attracted to her. He was surprised when he found out that Abigail was so well versed in poetry, philosophy, and politics because very few women were in that time period.
Abigail was 19 years old and John was almost 29 years old when they married on October 25, 1764, in the home of the bride's parents in
. The Reverend Smith approved of the married
and performed the ceremony. The mother
of the bride was "appalled that her daughter would marry a country lawyer
whose manners still reeked of the farm, but eventually she gave in." The bride "wore a square-necked gown of
white challis," and the groom wore "a dark blue coat, contrasting
light breeches and white stockings, a gold-embroidered satin waistcoat his
mother had made for the occasion, and buckle shoes." Weymouth, Massachusetts
According to one source the newlyweds left "in a horse and carriage to a cottage that stood beside the one where John Adams had been born and raised. This became their first home. They moved to
Boston in a series of rented homes before buying a large
farm, `Peacefield,' in 1787, while John was Minister to ." Great Britain
The other source said that "the couple mounted a single horse and rode off to their new home, the small cottage and farm that John had inherited from his father in
Massachusetts, before moving to , where his law
practice expanded." Boston
Six children were born to the couple in the next ten years: Abigail Amelia Adams Smith ("Nabby" - 1765-1813), John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), Susanna Boylston Adams (1768-1770), Charles Adams (1770-1800), Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832), and Elizabeth Adams (stillborn in 1777).
John and Abigail shared the management of the household finances and the farming of their property for sustenance while he practiced law in
. While John was away on his long trips,
Abigail was responsible for both family and farm. Boston
When John Adams went to
in 1774 as a delegate to the
First Continental Congress, Abigail stayed at home. It was during this separation that Abigail
and John began their lifelong correspondence.
John sought advice from his wife frequently and on many matters;
"their letters are filled with intellectual discussions on government and
politics" and "serve as eyewitness accounts of the American
Revolutionary War home front."
Their correspondence forms both a "rich archive that reflected the
evolution of a marriage of the Revolutionary and Federal eras" as well as
"a chronology of the public issues debated and confronted by the new
nation's leaders." Philadelphia
Abigail became the first Second Lady when John became the Vice President; when he was later elected as President, she became the second First Lady. She was the wife of the second President and the mother of the sixth President, John Quincy Adams. She was active in promoting the rights of married women and considered slavery to be "evil."
After John was defeated in his quest for a second term as President, the couple retired to
in 1800. "Lady Adams" died on
October 28, 1818, of typhoid fever. She
was 73 years old but would have been 74 two weeks later. She is buried beside her husband in a crypt
located in the Quincy United First Parish
Church (also known as the Church of the Presidents) in . She was Congregationalist but was buried in
the Unitarian faith of her husband. Her
last words were, "Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long." (John passed away on July 4, 1826.) Quincy, Massachusetts