I have just finished reading the new biography of LOUISA JOHNSON ADAMS, the wife of John Quincy Adams, Louisa—the Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas (New York: Penguin Press, 2016). Before this biography came out there were two blog posts on Louisa, here and here. I was fascinated by her when I wrote them and am more so now. Her life goes beyond the time frame I had set for this blog (1800) and so I did not write more about her. I urge you to read this book to follow her life to its end. During the latter part of her life Louisa wrote several memoirs: “The Adventures of a Nobody,” “Narrative of a Journey from Russia to France,” and “Record of A Life.” They are quite extraordinary.

John Quincy Adams met Louisa in London at the home of her father who was the American consul; her mother was English. They married after a peculiar courtship. Their relationship blew hot and cold throughout their marriage—John Quincy was a strange, difficult man. And, believe me, you wouldn’t have wanted Abigail Adams for a mother-in-law.) Louisa was torn between being a thinking, courageous, active woman and the subservient wife that a woman was expected to be at that time. She lived abroad as John Quincy cycled through various diplomatic assignments. In Washington she devoted herself to furthering her husband’s ambitions, first to become secretary of state and then president. Louisa was a small woman and her health was delicate; she endured numerous miscarriages and outlived all but one of her children.

The author Louisa Thomas has done a marvelous job of telling Louisa’s story, drawing on the memoirs and the voluminous correspondence with members of the family and others. (John Quincy’s father took to her early on and his mother Abigail warmed to her eventually.) The book of 458 pages reads like a novel; you won’t be able to put it down.

The painting is of Louisa as a young woman and was painted by Edward Savage. It is the property of the National Park Service.

posted June 20th, 2016 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Adams, Louisa Catherine

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