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Abigail Adams

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  856 ratings  ·  158 reviews
Winner of the Bancroft Prize
The New York Times Book Review , Editor’s Choice
American Heritage, Best of 2009

In this vivid new biography of Abigail Adams, the most illustrious woman of the founding era, Bancroft Award–winning historian Woody Holton offers a sweeping reinterpretation of Adams’s life story and of women’s roles in the cr
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Atria Books (first published 2009)
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After reading David McCullough's biography of John Adams, I knew that knowing more about Abigail Adams was crucial to understanding our second president, so I chose the most recently published work on Abigail to continue my study. Holton did not disappoint.

I find it interesting that some readers adamantly claim that Abigail was not a feminist. I find her the most balanced form of feminism ever displayed. She is a wife and a mother; a business woman and investor. She unashamedly gives her opinio
Abigail Adams has always been one of my favorite founding mothers. However, her vibrant life became dull in the pages of this book. I had the book for 2 months from the library and had to finally just turn it back in without finishing it. I would like to try a different biography about Mrs. Adams. Any suggestions? I thought this was really dry reading and at times hard to follow. Lots of odd tangents, they were brought back to her life but some so insignificant that it made the flow of reading f ...more
As much an endlessly engrossing biography of Abigail Adams herself, this is also an insightful look at the lives of women in the Revolutionary era. With no political or legal standing in their own right many women chafed against the strictures of the era, and Abigail Adams was a classic, perhaps a defining, example of this. Her 'Remember the Ladies' letter to husband John is perhaps the best known example of her early campaigning for the rights of women, but it was by no means the only or the la ...more
If you're looking for an in depth look into the life of America's second First Lady, then look no further. While Holton's writing style can be a bit difficult to navigate at times, the heart of the book remains Adams' own words. Holton utilizes Abigail's own words to validate the premise that she had been underestimated by many historians in the past. An adept businesswoman in her own right, Adams unabashedly touted women's rights in a time when women relinquished their rights to their husbands ...more
Engranon Gradous
Biographer Woody Holton is definitely an Abigail Adams fan. This is a good thing, because if he were not a fan, he never would have waded through the Massachusetts Historical Society archives to prepare this book. He also did a very good job of bringing the second First Lady to life. Unfortunately, being a fan also means that some of his writing was very close to fawning over Mrs. Adams. I do understand this as I have long been an admirer of her myself. Still, the writing did drag at times and t ...more
Abigial Adams was doctor, therapist, teacher, entrepreneur, politician, mother, and wife, in no particular order at any particular time. She was everything. She was nothing. And she knew it. And it made me a bit sad for one main reason: in this age of the crappily short emails, texts, whatever, I thought of the lost art of letter writing. I learned an immense amount of really interesting, meaty stuff about the revolution and the people in it, specifically the women and how this war profoundly af ...more
***Dave Hill
Woody Holton has written what will probably stand as one of the definitive accounts of Abigail Adams' life, drawing extensively from primary sources -- her correspondence with various people (especially her husband, John), as well as the writings of others who knew her.

If there's a weakness in the book, it's the surfeit of detail. There's little analysis that takes place, and one event rolls into another, the mundane alongside the profound. It's like watching a video of every moment in someone's
Abigail Adams was a remarkable self-taught woman who lived at a time where women had no rights and certainly no voice. She was John Adams, the 2nd President of the United State's wife. Rather than try to temper her high spirits, her curious mind, her strong opinions and her willingness to share, John seems to have come to rely on Abigail. She was tremendously loyal, had a keen gift of finances and was very committed to family. However, the book also shared instances time and again on her stance ...more
I have long been a fan of Abigail Adams so I was excited to read this new book and learn more about her. I was hoping for a McCullough's "John Adams" styled work but was somewhat disappointed. Holton is no McCullough (you can tell I really like the latter). This book is packed with facts and quotes from Abigail numerous letters to John and others, and emphasizes her wit, savvy and wisdom, but lacks, as I see it, a deeper look into her soul, into her passion, into her heart. Over and over again t ...more
I've read(or most often listened to) lots of books about the creation of America...John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, The Mayflower, 1776....this book is a great addition, telling about the same events from Abigail's perspective...and a very different one from what we get in most histories.
Based on the 1200 existing letters between Abigail and John, it allows us to see well known historical events in the context of a strong minded woman's view. Filled with deta
Fantastic book...especially if you've read/listened to John Adams. I listened to this from an download and have to comment once again on the remarkable and mellifluous voice of Cassandra Campbell. As soon as I noticed she was the reader I was in. For audiobook listeners, I highly recommend that you look for her.

Anyway, Abigail Adams. What an amazing woman she was. This book presents the other side of the the John Adams story. How she coped and ran the family during his extended absen
Very thorough, and a nice complement to Lynne Withey's Dearest Friend, as well as David McCullough's John Adams. Holton draws heavily on Abigail's letters and delves very specifically into the lives of her extended family and children. One thing that got on my nerves, however, was his determination to jive Abigail's views on women, race, and other issues with today's views. Different times, different views, I say. I wish he hadn't gotten so hung up on trying to figure out her often contradictory ...more
A well-researched look at Abigail Adams' long life, particularly through the dual lenses of her letters and the changing times in which she lived. She had her shortcomings, she had her loyalties, but she seemed consistent in loving her husband and their brood and extended family. She could be domineering and controlling, but also used her own sense of power to temper that to get her way. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
I enjoyed this book, it is thought-provoking and Holton enabled me to understand early American history from a different perspective. I could not help comparing Abigail Adams and other women of her period with the role of women during WW 1 and WWII. I saw a similar pattern of women stepping into traditional men's roles and providing support during war time, and them being expected to revert to pre-war, "submissive" roles once the fighting was done.

I also see parallels with later generations of
I've always wanted to read a great biography on Abigail Adams. This book had fabulous reviews. I felt that it could have been great, but it was bogged down by so many dates, it was annoying. Wish the flow would have been smooth. Instead the story was choppy as it continued to move two steps forward and then one step back. Having said all of that, I loved the subject and will continue to look for a great biography on Abigail Adams.
As shameful as it is to admit, I picked up this book with the question, "What's the big deal about Abigail Adams?" All I knew about was her "Remember the Ladies" letter which, having read it, wasn't that revolutionary (forgive the pun). The only thing she advocates for is the right to divorce a man who is abusive. Why is she considered an early feminist icon?

This book definitely answered my questions. She was a brilliant business person and she had a good mind for politics. She was a skilled wr
Tom Rowe
This book could have easily and more accurately been titled "Abigail Adams' Fight against Coverture" or "The Secret Financial Life of Abigail Adams." I came into this expecting to meet the charming delightful woman I met in David McCullough's "John Adams." Instead, I found a woman obsessed with having her own money and whose husband spends most of his time away from home not writing back. I think this was a book worth being written, but I don't think that it was what I was looking for. If you ar ...more
Wonderful, great read. I felt like I had actually met her and understood her.
I have, arguably unfortunately, just begun reading McCullough's biography of John Adams and so this biography of Abigail cannot but pale a little in comparison, McCullough is just such an excellent story teller.

The bad: I sometimes felt overwhelmed by minutiae. Yes, a good deal of her own letters and writing are preserved, but this book sometimes felt like a retelling rather than a telling. I was also sometimes confused about which Adams exactly the author was referring to, there were simply too
Stephen Escalera
Much emphasis is rightly given to the founding fathers of America such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. But rarely do we get such a detailed glimpse into the homes and personal lives of these men as we do the Adams' in Woody Holton's biography of Abigail Adams. With riveting detail, Holton introduces us to the complex woman who helped shaped America more than perhaps any other of the "founding mothers" through her influence on her husband.

Strong-willed, intelligent and will
I was inspired to read about Abigail Adams after a spring break trip to Philadelphia. I enjoyed learning about her life and would have liked to have met her. As for the book, fortunately, there were over 1200 letters written between Abigail and John Adams, so there was a wealth of information from which to learn about her life. I got a little bogged down in all the information about investments and skimmed those areas of the book. I was most fascinated by her role and comments and influence. on ...more
Clockstein Lockstein

Abigail Adams by Woody Holton is a timely and vital update to the well-known second First Lady of the United States. Abigail Adams has gained a place in history as the Dear Friend of her husband John Adams, as well as for her famed Remember the Ladies letter to him during the American Revolution. Previous biographies of her and her husband have treated her as a spunky but devoted wife of a Founding Father, but Holton brings completely new aspects of her to life in this well researched and enjoya
A very thorough biography, this book was far more detailed than my interest level. Also I am not terribly intrigued with colonial America. That said, Abigail Adams was a unique woman far ahead of her times. Outspoken in letters to her husband, sisters and other acquaintances, she debated women's rights and many other political subjects. She held firmly to her convictions and her strong, opinionated personality grew on me. She kept up a very impressive and extensive correspondence which really is ...more
Abigail Adams was an exemplar woman, Colonial American and Founding Mother! I can't believe all that she accomplished. Would John Adams have been so great without her? Hmmmm...not sure! She truly could do it all!! It sounds like her charm, flattery and humor could always be counted on to help her get her point across. Most often her point was that women should be treated equally. I marveled at her skill to educate herself, run her household and farm, become an entrepreneur, a skilled Bonds-woman ...more
Interesting and thorough. The author covers Adams' letters and family relationships, but also really digs into Abigail Adams' financial dealings and how they relate to the ups and downs of the economy and the evolution of marital property law -- and actually makes all of that interesting and relatable, much more than you would expect. It does get a bit gloomy by the end, when you're basically running through the illnesses and deaths of a whole bunch of Adams relatives. Not really a book you read ...more
I gave this four stars for content more than structure or excellent writing. It is remarkable how personal this book became while listening to it in the nation's capital. I have always been intrigued by the Adams family and their lives' intertwining with the birth and early history of our nation. Abigail herself is someone I think I would have really gotten on with, but what a meddler! She really stepped over the line a lot - particularly with John Quincy. He, however, seemed very quick to forgi ...more
This was a very loooooong biography of Abigail Adams. I listened to it as an audio book and the reader was fabulous. It was very easy to listen to. I easily became engaged in the telling of her story and couldn't wait to drive again so I could hear more. The book is told over the course of TWENTY CDs, so buckle up for a long ride if you choose to listen to this one. I am very interested in Adams' life and have read two other biographies on her life. This one was far more comprehensive and touche ...more
Superbly written and researched. I wanted to give it a 4, but I didn't honestly "really like it" simply for the reason that it's a biography and therefore not as compelling a read to me, even though it probably should be. But it was very interesting and I kept finding myself pulled in. I have a much better understanding now of who Abigail Adams was and learned a lot about the time in which she lived--and how Adams worked around discriminatory laws to speculate in stocks and grow her own fortune. ...more
I am on a historical novel journey. There is a lot of detail in this book where sometimes I had to read some sentences a few times but that is because I have not kept up with historical facts. All in all, this woman was simply an innovator in a time when women were generally left out of the picture. She moved behind the scenes, working, starting businesses. John Adams could never have done what he did without Abigail.
Mrs. Adams may have been bored by thIs biography if she was as clever and quick witted as this biographer describes her. But the author does a very thorough examination and modern interpretation of her life as far as the letters she and John wrote can reveal.

Rather than taking the view that she was the a fierce feminist, which apparently has been popular with some, Holton reveals a woman who knew her sex deserved better treatment including formal education, the right to own property, and a more
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