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Publisher's Summary

Abigail Adams offers a fresh perspective on the famous events of Adams's life, and along the way, Woody Holton, a renowned historian of the American Revolution, takes on numerous myths about the men and women of the founding era. But the book also demonstrates that domestic dramas---from unplanned pregnancies to untimely deaths---could be just as heartbreaking, significant, and inspiring as the actions of statesmen and soldiers.
A special focus of the book is Adams's complex relationships: with her mother, sisters, and children; with her husband's famous contemporaries; and with Phoebe, one of her father's slaves. At the same time that John exhibited his own diplomatic skills on a better-known canvas, Abigail struggled to prevent the charitable gifts she gave her sisters from coming between them. In a departure from the persistently upbeat tone of most Adams biographies, Holton's work shows how frequently her life was marred by tragedy, making this the deepest, most humanistic portrayal ever published.
Using the matchless trove of Adams family manuscripts, the author steps back to allow Abigail to respond to her many losses in her own words. Holton reveals that Abigail Adams sharply disagreed with her husband's financial decisions and assumed control of the family's money herself---earning them a tidy fortune through her shrewd speculations (this during a time when married women were not permitted to own property). And he shows that her commitment to women's equality and education was intense and explicitly expressed and practical, from the more than two thousand letters she wrote over her lifetime to her final will (written in defiance of legislation prohibiting married women from bequeathing property).
Alternately witty, poignant, and uplifting, Holton's narrative sheds new light on one of America's best-loved but least-understood icons.
©2009 Woody Holton (P)2009 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"Insightful, sensitive, and original.... Here is a bounty of fine-grained social history as well as a feast of language, from the eye and the voice of a historian-poet." (Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Michael on 01-14-10

A Remarkable Woman

Fantastic book...especially if you've listened to John Adams like I did. I must comment once again on the remarkable and mellifluous voice of Cassandra Campbell. As soon as I noticed she was the reader I was sold. I highly recommend that you look for her when choosing a download.

Anyway, Abigail Adams. What an amazing woman she was. This book presents the other side of the the John Adams story. How she coped and ran the family during his extended absenses as a career public servant.

It was interesting to learn how archaic society's view of women was during that time and how she struggled for her own identity within those constraints.

From the book, John Adams, and hearing about the love letters they wrote, I had the impression that life between the two was all lovey dovey but it really wasn't according to this. Additionally, the book details the sensitive perspective of the family trials and tribulations as they relate to family relationships. Again, from the John Adams book, I knew of the key personal tragedies but they were told from John's male perspective. Not that any of the events were less painful to him but they were written with less emotion that a female does (we're just wired different).

I was most impressed with Abigail's financial savvy and contribution to the family's wealth through investing and her own business. This woman could do it all...and she did!

Remarkable...a life well lived.

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22 of 23 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Sara on 03-20-18

Colonial America From A Woman's Point Of View

I really enjoyed this biography because it makes life in Revolutionary America and the early days of forming the US vivid and alive. The book, drawn from over two thousand of Abigail's letters, lets the reader actually hear a living voice of the times. It literally made me laugh at how outspoken, gossipy and intense these women were. Holton offers a totally different historic perspective because the book is filled with back stories of life at home in the midst of war and post revolution recovery. The stories of Mrs. Washington, cultural protocol, social requirements and the limited rights of women were all fascinating.

I think that this book is the perfect pair-up to be read after David McCullough's excellent bio John Adams. The books have the same story line or trajectory, but very different tones and overall feelings. By reading both books I think I now have a broader picture and a better understanding of life in early America. The book was well written and totally engaging. Campbell's narration was good.

So often history is written about men, with women, if they show up, playing quiet supporting roles. It was refreshing to hear Abigail's clear voice in her own words and to learn about how she saw the world and viewed the events happening around her. To me, she was a formidable powerhouse who lived life boldly in spite of the social constraints of the time. If you love books that bring history to life this is an excellent choice. Abigail Adams leaps right off the page. I loved it.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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