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Abigail Adams [Kindle Edition]

Woody Holton
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $13.99
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Book Description

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 creation of the republic.

Using previously overlooked documents from numerous archives, Abigail Adams shows that the wife of the second president of the United States was far more charismatic and influential than historians have realized. One of the finest writers of her age, Adams passionately campaigned for women’s education, denounced sex discrimination, and matched wits not only with her brilliant husband, John, but with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. When male Patriots ignored her famous appeal to "Remember the Ladies," she accomplished her own personal declaration of independence: Defying centuries of legislation that assigned married women’s property to their husbands, she amassed a fortune in her own name.

Adams’s life story encapsulates the history of the founding era, for she defined herself in relation to the people she loved or hated (she was never neutral), a cast of characters that included her mother and sisters; Benjamin Franklin and James Lovell, her husband’s bawdy congressional colleagues; Phoebe Abdee, her father’s former slave; her financially naïve husband; and her son John Quincy.

At once epic and intimate, Abigail Adams, sheds light on a complicated, fascinating woman, one of the most beloved figures of American history.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. While Abigail Adams has always been viewed as one of the most illustrious of America's founding mothers, University of Richmond historian Holton (Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution), drawing on the rich collection of Adams's letters and other manuscripts, paints a strong-minded woman whose boldness developed in the context of the revolutionary era in which she lived. Holton offers a captivating portrait of a reformer both inside and outside the home. Best known for exhorting her husband, John Adams, to remember the ladies in devising America's new political system, she also, Holton has discovered, wrote a will leaving most of her property to her granddaughters, in defiance of the law that made her husband the master of all she owned. Furthermore, she was a businesswoman and invested her own earnings in ways John did not always approve of. Tracing Adams's life from her childhood as the daughter of a poor parson to her long and sometimes uncertain courtship with John, her joys and sorrows as a mother and her life as the wife of a president, Holton's superb biography shows us a three-dimensional Adams as a forward-thinking woman with a mind of her own. (Nov. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Captivating... biography and social history. Through his engaging prose, Holton provides a nuanced picture of Adams as representative of many women of her era yet also ahead of her time." --Journal of American History

Product Details

  • File Size: 3191 KB
  • Print Length: 516 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416546804
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1 edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003L7865K
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,475 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holton does justice to Abigail's life story November 16, 2009
Abigail Adams is perhaps best remembered for requesting that her husband, the not-yet-president John Adams, "remember the ladies" as he helped forge a new government in 1776. This famous private letter has turned Adams into a feminist icon, and while here she may have been specifically referring to domestic violence, in other letters she expressed what is often seen as a progressive, enlightened view that women should be equally educated with men and allowed to engage in business and control their own finances. This aspect of Adams's biography is well-known. But less so are her conflicted ideas on religion, African-Americans, money making, Europe, politics and family. In ABIGAIL ADAMS, by American history scholar Woody Holton, readers are given a vivid and complete picture of America's second first lady.

Abigail Smith was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1744, the daughter of a parson. She was raised by her overprotective parents but spent a lot of time with her more affectionate maternal grandmother. Along with her brother and two sisters, she had a typical childhood. She was atypical, though, in the sense that she yearned for an education forbidden to her, one of science and critical thinking in addition to literature and language. She managed to find ways to more fully educate herself through the study of languages and by reading whatever she could get her hands on.

Just before her 20th birthday, she married John Adams, a lawyer family friend nine years her senior. Though one would expect her concern with education and worldly topics to end at that point, she remained true to her belief that girls should be educated as boys are and that women possess intelligence, reason and dignity.

However, as Holton shows, Adams was not a feminist by today's standards.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, original, well written December 10, 2009
Everybody knows the name Abigail Adams but few people know much about her. The John Adams mini-series and the book it was based on hardly tell anything about her. Boy, was she interesting. Woody Holton doesn't just take us through her whole life but provides tons of interesting details. The part I found the most fascinating was the stuff about her financial wheeling and dealing. She was quite the savvy investor. And she even wrote her own will--at a time when women couldn't legally pass along property--to make sure her assets were divided how she wanted them. She was quite the feisty feminist icon. I thought Holton did a great job of bringing Abigail alive in all her complexity--not just the financial speculator, but the wife, the mother, the political advisor. After reading this its hard not to think that Mrs. Adams should be added to the pantheon of "Founding Fathers" as well. Not just as an early feminist hero but as an important player in her own right. The other thing I liked about this book was how it really placed Abigail in the ebb and flow of the events of the Revolution and John's presidency. Holton's a real historian, with years of studying the Revolution behind him, so he's able to bring context that other of the biographies lack. As you'd expect from someone who was a national book award finalist, Abigail Adams is smoothly written and easy to read. He's especially good at explaining complicated business deals in a straightforward way.

This book is great for anyone interested in the Revolution or anyone looking for a good read about an important founding mother.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a spellbinding life story February 15, 2010
By hmf22
Abigail Adams was all over the place in the Revolutionary era, her life entwining not only with that of her husband John, her son John Quincy Adams, and her daughter-in-law Louisa Catherine Adams, but also with those of Benjamin Franklin, George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, Mercy Otis Warren, George III and Queen Charlotte, and other famous men and women, some she admired and some she deprecated. In this brisk and engaging new biography, Woody Holton highlights Adams's keen observation of the public events and public figures of her day, but even more importantly, he shines a steady light on the recesses of her private life, her relationships with her sisters and brother, husband, children, and grandchildren, her economic ventures, her daily activities, and her private dreams and values.

Much of Holton's analysis focuses on two intertwined themes: Abigail Adams as economic agent and Abigail Adams as commentator and critic of women's roles in society. Holton convincingly argues that Adams was responsible for managing and shepherding much of the Adams family's wealth and that her investments turned a better profit than her husband's investments did. The final chapter features an intriguing account of Adams's will, which she used to endow granddaughters, nieces, and other female relations (some already married) with modest economic portfolios of their own. Throughout her life, Adams testified to her concern for women's education-- she believed that the revolution in girls' schooling was one of the most important social changes of her lifetime-- and her wish that women might have more of a voice in society.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleased!
Very pleased with purchase and ease of making the purchase!
Published 8 days ago by K Cardona
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but...
I bought this book for my sister, she loved it! She is a history buff, and really likes t poo read about Abigail Adams. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Nancynan
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive book about an impressive woman
Well-written book that provides insight into life and politics during and after the Revolutionary War. Abigail Adams was an amazing woman, well ahead of her time.
Published 1 month ago by sasanqua
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history and perspective on women during this era
Abigail Adams lived an amazing life with strength and dignity. She was not perfect but she did her what she believed was right.
Published 2 months ago by Mary Nolan
2.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't get into it
I stopped reading after about 80 pages. The details were not of great interest to me. I have to attribute it to the writing, as she lived at a fascinating time in the history of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by M&T
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very enlightening book and gripping. What a lady!
Published 2 months ago by Monique Figlietti
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book
Published 3 months ago by nancy alden
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It's very interesting and gives me an insight to an ancestor
Published 3 months ago by Janice Votaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book.
Enjoying this book!!!
Published 4 months ago by Marilyn Stewart
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Too hard to read.
Published 5 months ago by John Adams
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More About the Author

Woody Holton (Ph.D., Duke University) is an McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches classes on African Americans, Native America, early American women, the origins of the Constitution, Abigail Adams, and the era of the American Revolution. He is especially interested in studying the impact of ordinary citizens on grand political events. He is the author of Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia (1999), which won the Organization of American Historians Merle Curti Social History Award; Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (2007), which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Abigail Adams, which won the Bancroft Prize.

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