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COLLECTION Identifier: A/A211

Letter from Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 1808


Handwritten letter from Abigail Adams to her daughter Abigail Adams Smith, typed transcript, etc.


  • Creation: 1808

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Abigail Adams are in the public domain. Copyright in other papers in the collection, may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1 folder

The Abigail Adams letter to her daughter, Abigail Amelia ("Nabby") (Adams) Smith is handwritten and begins on July 31st. The letter was completed on August 8th and describes the difficulty of finding men to harvest the farm crops, the impact of weather, and political issues involving her son, John Quincy Adams. She also comments on the negative impact of embargoes during the Napoleonic Wars. A typed transcript of Adams' letter is also included.


Women's rights advocate Abigail (Smith) Adams was the wife of John Adams (1735-1826), attorney, foreign diplomat, and the second president of the United States (1797-1801). She was born in 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts, to William and Elizabeth (Quincy) Smith; the second of four children. Her father was a Congregationalist minister and her mother, the daughter of Colonel John Quincy, was devoted to helping the sick and needy. Chronic bouts of poor health, and the societal limits placed on women and girls during the Revolutionary and Federalist eras, prevented Adams from receiving a formal education. Instead, she was taught to read and write at home and acquired additional knowledge through books and discussions with family members who were actively involved in government affairs. As a result, she became well versed in philosophy, theology, ancient history, government, and law.

In October of 1764, when she was 19 years old, Abigail Smith's father presided over her wedding to John Adams. The couple initially lived in Boston where they raised four children. Their daughter Abigail Amelia ("Nabby") Adams (1765-1813), eventually married Colonel William Smith, her father's secretary during the period he served as United States minister in Great Britain. Their oldest son, John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), went on to hold various political offices, and became the sixth president of the United States. A second daughter, Susanna Adams (1768-1770), died in infancy. The couple's two youngest sons, Charles Adams (1770-1800) and Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832) were graduates of Harvard College where they studied law.

Adams was often sharply criticized for her involvement and unwavering support of her husband's political affairs, which generated substantial correspondence. She was equally devoted to maintaining a stable home environment and by 1788, the family was living on a large farm they called Peacefield, which was located in the North Parish of Braintree (Quincy). In addition to managing household expenditures, organizing the labor force needed to produce sustenance crops and commodities, the Adams home was the center of many social activities and annual Independence Day celebrations. Abigail Adams died at the age of 73 in her home in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The letter of Abigail Adams was given to Radcliffe College by Heyliger A. de Windt in June, 1938 and later transferred to Schlesinger Library.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see the Alma Lutz collection of documents by and about abolitionists and women's rights activists, 1775-1943 (A-110), and at the Library of America; see Abigail Adams: Letters (LOA no 275).

Processing Information

Processed: March 1985

By: Fannie Littell

Updated and additional description added: March 2021

By: Emilyn L. Brown, with assistance from Susan Earle

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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