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Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams Paperback – July 9, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"As lively, sensible, and forthright as the woman about whom it is written. . . . Illuminating." (The Boston Globe)

"Dearest Friend -- the Adamses' term for each other -- is most powerfully the history of a marriage, an "Eleanor and Franklin" for the 18th century with one important difference: Their marriage worked." (Pauline Maier The New York Times Book Review)

"Withey has not only brought Abigail to life, she has also added new depth and richness to our understanding of the intricate history of feminist thought." (Kirkus Reviews)

About the Author

Lynne Withey's books include Voyages of Discovery: Captain James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific (1987) and Grand Tours and Cook's Tours: A History of Leisure Travel, 1750-1915 (1997). She has taught history at the University of Iowa, Boston University, and the University of California at Berkeley, and is now the associate director of the University of California Press.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (July 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074323443X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743234436
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
First off, cheers to the publisher for re-releasing this biography in light of McCollough's John Adams. But, then a jeer to the same publisher for not bothering to take the time to let a human proof the manuscript. (Hint: computer spell checkers don't find words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly like "ad" for "and" and "as" for "has"). The number of typos in the author's text (not Abigail's unique spelling)is exasperating in places. Nevertheless, the book is a delightful read about Abigail's life, her love for her husband, her (sometimes overbearing) love for her children and most of all her love for her nascent country. Withey points out the many contradictions in Abigail's life: a woman who advocated improved education for women but was by no means the feminist many have tried to make her out to be; a woman who opposed slavery and saw that it would one day divide the country and yet who grew up in a family that owned two slaves. Having grown up in Braintree and Quincy myself the thing which spoke loudest to me was the deep-rooted Puritanism in Abigail's blood, the self-reliance, the willingness to completely subjugate her own happiness even allowing herself to be separated from her husband for the better part of ten years and the need to try to keep her children on the straight and narrow. Yet, Abigail is much softer here than the shrew portrayed in Nagel's book on John Quincy. You can help but admire her and feel sorry for the many trials she went through.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By JOHN GODFREY on March 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
So I was disinclined to read it for a long time. I thought it would be a book of interest for only women. I was completely wrong. I won this book at a book fair years ago. It is not one I would have puchased on my own. I picked it up soon found myself reading it avidly. It is Abigail Adams' complete life story. A faithful, constant, patriotic wife for the cranky but brillant John Adams. Every bit her husband's intellectual equal, she was his most important advisor throughout his public life. She kept the family together during his long absences first in Philadelphia during the revolution & later in Europe. During these periods apart, once, over seven years, she raised the family, saw to the education of their children (Harvard for the boys) & ran the family finances quite well. All the time she was corresponding with John & we have many of her letters to him & others. After the war she spent several years with him in Europe. Although she was always loathe to leave her beloved New England, she knew she had to be with her husband to understand what he was trying to do, that is helping to build a nation. Her observations on the years spent in Paris & London are valuable social history. As mush as she was a revolutionary during the war, in her later years she turned into an uncompromising reactionary, unwilling to change & adapt to the evolution that she had fought to create. She became what she had fought against. Most of his career John Adams was unpopular & underappreiciated. This fact bothered Abigail all her life, more that it did John. How could anyone compete with George Washington, even if you were smarter than him? Eventually in her old age she mellowed. This was in part due to the sucessful career of her one of her sons John Quincy. She could be described as a earily feminist for sure.Read more ›
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By GoneGirl on August 21, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While in college I took an American History class because I wanted to, not because I had to. In the process of writing a paper on the role of women in the American Revolution, I found so many references to Abigail Adams, that I knew at some point in the future I would have to read her biography. Well, I just completed this book and I can't recommend it more highly!

With so many books regarding the Founding Fathers being touted at the bookstores recently, it's wonderful to read the story of one of the Women behind one of the Men. Though not traditionally educated Abigail's knowledge of politics, curiousity about everything, and affection for family and friends is well-documented through excerpts from her numerous letters. The sacrifices both she and her husband made for the fledgling America are a sober reminder of the courage and bravery required of our ancestors.

In a time when woman were subservient to men, she stood head and shoulders above other members of her gender. Her husband wisely depended on her counsel, love and care.

This is a wonderful biography that takes the reader back in time and place so vividly as to feel present at the birth of a nation and a voyeur into the unfolding political career of the second President of the United States and the woman who loved him.

I, too, wish American History had been presented this richly in my grammar and high school years.

After reading this book I would suggest reading "John Adams" by David McCullough, though quite lengthy, it is worthwhile to read the other half of the "conversation".
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Phillips on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
During the history of the United States there have been many women who have sacrificed just as much or more for their country than did Abigail Adams, but not many. Thanks to the voluminous correspondence of Mrs. Adams this book was made possible and should stand as a monument to all of these women.
In recent years the life of John Adams has been reexamined and his role in American history has again come to the forefront. Without Abigail, Mr. Adams could never have accomplished what he did. For unlike many of the other leaders of the Revolution, Adams was not a man of means. When he was away, someone had to look after the family's domestic concerns. That someone was Abigail. John became so accustomed to having Abigail to take care of home and hearth that when he did have time to see to such matters he seldom did.
This book details the work Abigail did behind the scenes to allow John to make his vital contributions to American independence. We see a strong woman who is more than willing to take charge of a given situation and make a decision. We also see however a wife who misses her husband. Abigail and John Adams are one of the true love stories of history. Their complete devotion to each other is amazing, especially in that the longer they were together the more in love they became. In the end becoming almost one soul in two bodies. Abigail's worst hardships didn't involve the work she did but the separations from John. Separations that lasted months and then years at a time.
Abigail is also shown in this book as a woman of strong conviction but also a woman of great contradiction. She and her husband helped make the American Revolution but she detested revolution as a threat to the social order.
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