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Abigail Adams

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,739 ratings  ·  255 reviews
In this vivid new biography of Abigail Adams, the most illustrious woman of the founding era, prize-winning historian Woody Holton offers a sweeping reinterpretation of Adams's life story and of women's roles in the creation of the republic.

Using previously overlooked documents from numerous archives, Abigail Adams shows that the wife of the second president of the United
Hardcover, 483 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Free Press (first published 2009)
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Jason Koivu
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
I've been looking for a good bios on the nation's founding mothers and I found one!

Having read bios on the male versions of the Washingtons, Adams, Jeffersons, Hamiltons, etc...etc...etc...I wanted to see the revolutionary period through the eyes of the women of the day. Abigail Adams is an important figure of the time and the fact that I didn't know her hardly at all rankled with me. Having read Woody Holton's Abigail Adams: A Life I feel like I know more than I could ever need to know.

I've rea
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2018 Review
This was a solid biography and yet I can't say I "really liked it." Though it paints an interesting, not always sympathetic, picture of this Founding Mother, it struggles to find a tone. Abigail Adams was as feminist! Alas, no, she was sadly of her times. She was the power behind the John Adams presidency! She was a meddling matriarch.
I like the historical facts about this remarkable woman but I got tired of the author's emphasis on the many ways Abigail Adams falls short of a modern
Sep 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2pt5-ok
This is an extremely well-researched and exceedingly detailed biography which I found to be uniquely, and almost equally, its strength and its challenge as a reader generally interested in learning more about Abigail Adams. Although there was quite a bit of information that interestingly revealed her as a person, there was a lot of other information that was either tangentially connected to her, or less significant, or both. As an example, I found excerpts of letters back and forth between her a ...more
Dec 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, biography
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
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Stephanie Moran
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Library Biography # 24
Here’s what I learned about Abigail Adams: She was a feminist, supported emancipation, preferred to sleep with the shutters closed, an entrepreneur, a speculator, and a control freak.

Holton’s biography of Abigail Adams was my second biography on her. The first one I read, Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution, was more of quick portrayal and really didn’t get into the details that Holton does. Holton explains a lot more of Abigail’s doings while John Adams is away. For exa
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feisty Harriet
Prior to this biography I didn't know much about Abigail Adams, feminist, investor, philanthropist, stateswoman, and wife of President John Adams. I loved learning more about her through her writing, letters to her husband, friends, and children, and the documents that illustrate how progressive she was for her time, going against convention and also at times against British and American law in order to assert her own independence, both as a woman, wife, and businesswoman. I also love that in he ...more
Apr 09, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Feb 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
elliot leven
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Our first feminist, Abigail Adams was a woman ahead of her time. The wife of our second president and mother of our sixth president, she was feisty, opinionated, confident, caring, loving and smart. An independent woman, she learned the hard way to navigate her world while her husband travelled, to rely on her instincts in child rearing and business dealings – and did so well. At a time of “femme couvert” laws, or couverture, when the law declared that a husband and wife were as one, and that “o ...more
Sandy H
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have long been interested in Abigail Adams but never read anything on her. I recently did some googling for reviews on which would be the best book to read, and this one consistently came up at the top of the list. I was hugely disappointed, though. It's well researched and certainly helps you to get to know Adams through her letters, but it's poorly written. It's very choppy. It also feels like it discredits her a bit as it will start leading into significant historical events and begin to to ...more
David Szatkowski
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the reasons to read a biography is to understand the context of the life of another. Further, by understanding the worldview of the person being written about, we are able to understand better the world we live in today, the tensions that are still present to us, and the roots of political movements past and present. This biography of Abigail Adams hits all of these notes. I first thought a biography of the second First Lady would be of interest when I read about the presidents in general ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's an interesting biography that really gives a picture of life in this slice of late 18th-century America. And I love books that also make me smarter, so bonus.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an audiobook. I enjoyed hearing the prolific amount of letters that Abigail Adams wrote to her husband and many other influential people of her time. It may have been a more challenging read, if I didn’t listen to the book.
I gained a clear understanding of the role that Abigail Adams played in giving women more rights to property ownership, independence and education.
Lisa Butterworth
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Holton's voice and perspective. and I learned a lot.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-read-a-thon
Sweet goodness, I love Abigail Adams. This is a captivating, honest look at the life of one of the fiercest women in American history and her lifelong quest to earn respect and equality for all women. Was she perfect? Of course not-- and kudos to the author for not sweeping some of her more unflattering qualities under the rug. But she was remarkable, and still worthy of being viewed as a heroine.

I highly recommend the audio version of this; the narrator, Cassandra Campbell, does a beautiful jo
***Dave Hill
Feb 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: text, audiobook
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
Sirius Scientist
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs, feminism, women's education, colonial daily life
A dense but very good read for anyone interested in more about the life of an amazing first lady. Abigail's relationship with her husband and her thoughts on the rights and education of women are well documented here, and while Abigail is famous for reminding her husband to "remember the ladies", this was a more pronounced theme in her life than I originally thought. The topic of self improvement and the hazards of being a women, married and single, in this time period come up throughout her lif ...more
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: listening-to
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
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
Ugh this book is dry & dragging, if enlightning. So sorry for intelligent women who had to apologize and soften/couch their every viewpoint to appease the males, their masters, around them. What an absolute waste of brilliance. Don't know if I can stick it out, I'm on chapter 16 and there are 34 chapters in the book. So interesting to me that Abigail and John have been portrayed as great lovers in history with their love letters to each other. And yet, I'm sure his multi year absence was a b ...more
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I definitely enjoyed this biography of Abigail Adams (one of my she-roes) better than one I had tried reading once before, "Dearest Friend". This one was written much better and captivated me more. Abigail led quite a life. I wasn't sure how much John would feature in this book; would the author make the claim that Abigail's life was just as interesting and worthy and keep John "on the side" or would the book ultimately be a John Adams biography? I was pleased to read about John, of course, but ...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
Nov 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Interesting history, but heavy with the history of bond speculation and financial issues in the early days of the American republic. Fair enough, given Adams' significant use of the market, but be forewarned if economic & political history isn't your thing.

There's also a lot of naming of Adams' views on slavery, slaves, and people of the African diaspora. (As an adult: against, mixed, mixed). She's well established as holding many of the common prejudices of her time, and places where she mi
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