Born 23 November 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts, Abigail Smith's health was not that great and she never attended school. Instead, she read all available books at home. Her reading habits gave her something in common with John Adams, who she married at age 20. At the time, he was just a Boston lawyer.

The two had five children by the time the oncoming American Revolution drew John away as a delegate to the first Continental Congress and later as a diplomat in Europe. Abigail had a lot to do running the household and raising the children. However, John and Abigail wrote one another constantly, and John never hesitated to discuss political matters with his wife. Their letters, published by their grandson, give interesting views of the issues being discussed in those congresses and meetings, and Abigail gave advice as to how things should be done. She opposed slavery and favored equal education and legal rights for women. One of her most famous admonitions to John is:

"Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to forment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation."
That last sentence must have been a tart reminder of how the American colonists had rebelled against English laws created with no American input.

In 1784, she joined her husband in France, and later England, and carried off the social duties of diplomat's wife very well, as she would later in as the wife of the U.S.'s first Vice President, when John was second to George Washington. John was sometimes frustrated with the limits of his position, until 1797 when he became President. Abigail entertained formally, even in the primitive conditions of the still-mostly-swamp Washington, D.C.. But given her health, the couple's retirement in 1801 back to Massachusetts was probably a relief for her. The two enjoyed the companionship that had been kept from them by obligations to their country.

She died 28 October 1818 in Quincy, Massachusetts of typhoid fever. She did not live to see her son John Quincy Adams become President, but he had been a Senator and Minister to Russia, and no doubt she was proud of all her children as well as her husband and her own accomplishments in creating a new country.

Sources: Everybody's Cyclopedia