|First Lady of the United States|
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
|Preceded by||Elizabeth Monroe|
|Succeeded by||Emily Donelson|
February 12, 1775|
|Died||May 15, 1852
|Spouse(s)||John Quincy Adams
(1797-1848; his death)
|Children||George Washington Adams
John Adams II
Charles Francis Adams
Louisa Catherine Adams
|Occupation||First Lady of the United States|
Born in London, she was the only First Lady born outside of the United States. She was the daughter of Catherine Nuth-Johnson, an Englishwoman and Joshua Johnson, an American merchant and brother of Governor and United States Supreme Court Justice Thomas Johnson. Her father was originally from Maryland and served as United States consul general in London after 1790. She had six sisters: Ann, Caroline, Harriet, Catherine, Elizabeth, and Adelaide, and a brother, Thomas. Louisa grew up in London and Nantes, France, where the family took refuge during the American Revolution. It was in Nantes that four-year-old Louisa first met her future husband, who at 12 was traveling through France with his father.
Marriage and children
She again met Adams, this time in London, where her father had been appointed American consul. Adams at first showed interest in her older sister but soon settled on Louisa. John Quincy Adams, aged 30, married Louisa, aged 22, on July 26, 1797, at All Hallows Barking parish in London, England. Adams' father, John Adams, then President of the United States, overcame his initial objections to his son marrying a person born in another country and welcomed his daughter-in-law into the family.
Her parents left Europe in 1797 and went to the U.S. When her father was forced into bankruptcy, President John Adams appointed him U.S. Director of Stamps. Her father died in Frederick, Maryland in 1802 of severe fever and some mental problems. Her mother died in 1811 and is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery.
Together, John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams had the following children:
- George Washington Adams (1801–1829), lawyer
- John Adams II (1803–1834), presidential aide
- Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), diplomat, public official, and author
- Louisa Catherine Adams (12 August 1811 – 15 September 1812), born and died in St Petersburg, Russia.
Louisa was sickly, plagued by migraine headaches and frequent fainting spells. She had several miscarriages over the course of their marriage.
She left her two older sons in Massachusetts for education in 1809 when she took two-year-old Charles Francis Adams to Russia, where Adams served as a Minister. Despite the glamour of the tsar's court, she had to struggle with cold winters, strange customs, limited funds, and poor health; an infant daughter born in 1811 died the next year.
Peace negotiations called Adams to Ghent in 1814 and then to London. To join him, Louisa had to make a forty-day journey across war-ravaged Europe by coach in winter; roving bands of stragglers and highwaymen filled her with "unspeakable terrors" for her son. Happily, the next two years gave her an interlude of family life in the country of her birth.
When John Quincy Adams was appointed James Monroe's U.S. Secretary of State the family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1817 where Louisa's drawing room became a center for the diplomatic corps and other notables. Music enhanced her Tuesday evenings at home, and theater parties contributed to her reputation as an outstanding hostess.
The pleasures of moving into the White House in 1825 were dimmed by the bitter politics of the election, paired with her deep depression. Though she continued her weekly "drawing rooms", she preferred quiet evenings of reading, composing music and verse, and playing her harp. As First Lady, she became reclusive and depressed. For a time, she regretted ever having married into the Adams family, the men of which she found cold and insensitive. The necessary entertainments were always elegant, however; and her cordial hospitality made the last official reception a gracious occasion although her husband had lost his bid for re-election and partisan feeling still ran high.
In his diary for June 23, 1828, her husband records her "winding silk from several hundred silkworms that she has been rearing," evidently in the White House. Diary (New York: Longmans, Green, 1929) p. 380.
Louisa thought she was retiring to Massachusetts permanently, but in 1831 her husband began seventeen years of service in the United States House of Representatives. The untimely deaths of her two oldest sons added to her burdens.
"Our union has not been without its trials," John Quincy Adams conceded. He acknowledged many "differences of sentiment, of tastes, and of opinions in regard to domestic economy, and to the education of children between us." But, he added, "she always has been a faithful and affectionate wife, and a careful, tender, indulgent, and watchful mother to our children."
Her husband died at the United States Capitol in 1848; after which, she remained in Washington until her death of a heart attack on May 15, 1852, at the age of 77. She is entombed at his side, as well as President John Adams and first lady Abigail Adams, in the United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts (also known as the Church of the Presidents).
First Spouse Coin
|First Lady Louisa Adams, C‑SPAN|
The First Spouse Program under the Presidential $1 Coin Act authorizes the United States Mint to issue 1/2 ounce $10 gold coins and medal duplicates to honor the first spouses of the United States. Louisa Adams' coin was released May 29, 2008.
- Original text based on White House biography
- "Louisa Catherine Adams". Zach Samuels. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
- "First Lady Louisa Adams". C‑SPAN. March 18, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
- U.S. Mint: First Spouse Program. Accessed 2008-06-27. "The United States Mint also produces and make available to the public bronze medal duplicates of the First Spouse Gold Coins."
- Allgor, Catherine. Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.
- Hogan, Margaret A.; Taylor, C. James, eds. (2014). A Traveled First Lady: Writings of Louisa Catherine Adams. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
- Nagel, Paul. The Adams Women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, Their Sisters and Daughters. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
- Joan R. Challinor, Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams: The Price of Ambition (Ph.D. dissertation, American University, 1982), 178 pages. [In his book 'Henry Adams and the Making of America' Garry Wills says, "Joan Challinor...has written the most complete account of Louisa's life..." New York Times, September 11, 2005, nytimes.com
Elizabeth Kortright Monroe
|First Lady of the United States