ABIGAIL SMITH ADAMS was born 11 November 1744, in Weymouth, Massachusetts, to the Reverend William and Elizabeth (Quincy) Smith. She had no formal schooling, but her education included reading works by Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope. On 25 October 1764, she married John Adams. John Adams’ protracted absences from home (first while traveling the court circuits and later while at the Continental Congress and on diplomatic assignments abroad) often left Abigail with the children to raise, a farm to manage, the household and tenants to supervise, and extended family and friends to care for—all while the Revolution in Boston unfolded on her doorstep. The letters she exchanged with John and other family members reveal her cares and worries, her frank opinions and advice, and give an extraordinary view of everyday life in 18th-century New England.
In 1784, Adams and her daughter Abigail joined John and son John Quincy in Europe. Abigail’s record of her month-long voyage from Boston to England, along with two shorter journals she kept while in England and on her return voyage to America in 1788, are printed in The Adams Papers’ Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, volume three. During the 12 years of John Adams’ vice-presidency and presidency, Abigail moved between their home in Quincy and the national capitol in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., successively. Again, the burden of their household and personal affairs fell on her capable shoulders. She was also responsible for raising nieces and grandchildren entrusted to her care. Among her notable correspondents were Thomas Jefferson, James Lovell, Benjamin Rush, and Mercy Otis Warren. Abigail Adams died 28 October 1818, at home in Quincy.
To read the correspondence of John and Abigial Adams, visit the Adams Electronic Archive. The published Adams Family Correspondence is available online at the Adams Papers Digital Editions. A timeline of Abigail's life is available at the Adams Family Timeline.