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, Abigail Adams: A :Life. 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 willing to speak her mind, Adams was decades ahead of her time when it came to women’s rights and involvement in the everyday affairs of life and politics. Relying heavily on Adams’ correspondence between her husband and others, Holton places much emphasis on Adams as an advocate of women’s rights. We glimpse the struggles that the Adams family endured through the many long absences of John Adams; but through these struggles we also get to see Abigail’s knowledge and fortitude in being able to “keep the home fires burning” as it were. In a culture that frowned on educating women, she was very intelligent, widely read, and very active in promoting the education of her gender. She made financial investments often without the knowledge of her husband – also a cultural taboo.
Holton does an excellent job of highlighting Adams’ strengths as well as her weaknesses, giving us a well-rounded, quite readable biography of this great woman. He certainly does Adams justice in examining her life as a woman and not simply as the wife of a founding father. I would highly recommend this book to any reader of American history or of women’s rights.