Abigail Adams Smith

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This article is about the daughter of U.S. president John Adams. For his wife (and this article's subject's mother), see Abigail Adams.
Abigail "Nabby" Adams Smith
Born July 14, 1765
Quincy, Province of Massachusetts Bay
Died August 15, 1813(1813-08-15) (aged 48)
Quincy, Massachusetts
Spouse(s) William Stephens Smith
Children William, John, Thomas, Caroline

Abigail "Nabby" Adams Smith (July 14, 1765 – August 15, 1813) was the firstborn of Abigail and John Adams, founding father and second President of the United States. She was named for her mother.[1]

Abigail "Nabby" Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on July 14, 1765,

Romance and marriage[edit]

At the age of 18, Nabby met and fell in love with Royall Tyler. Her father thought she was too young to have a suitor, but he eventually accepted it. At one point the two were even engaged to be married. But John Adams, then the U.S. minister to the Kingdom of Great Britain, eagerly called for his wife and daughter to join him in London. For a time, Nabby maintained a long distance relationship with Tyler, but eventually broke off the engagement, leaving Tyler depressed.

Shortly afterward Nabby met Colonel William Stephens Smith, who was serving as her father's secretary and was 10 years her senior. They were married at the American minister's residence in London on June 12, 1786.[2] Nabby's observations of European life and customs, and many of the distinguished statesmen of the day, were later published.[3]

Their children were:

  • William Stebens Smith
  • John Adams Smith
  • Thomas Hollis Smith
  • Caroline Amelia Smith


In 1810, Nabby was diagnosed with breast cancer, followed by a mastectomy in 1811. The gruesome details of the surgery and the remainder of Nabby's life have been discussed by historians such as James S. Olson.[4] The cancer continued to spread throughout her body, and she died, aged 48, on Sunday, August 15, 1813.[5]

Depictions in popular culture[edit]

Nabby's death is a poignant part of the 2008 John Adams miniseries, in which she is played by Sarah Polley; Nabby Adams as a young girl was played by Madeline Taylor in the first three episodes of the same series. The screenplay for that television drama shifted the date of her diagnosis to 1803 and altered many other details of her life.[6]


  1. ^ (2006) American Experience: John and Abigail Adams. PBS Paramount.
  2. ^ Nagel, Paul C. 1987. The Adams women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, their sisters and daughters. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503874-6
  3. ^ Smith, Abigail Adams 1841. Journal and correspondence of Miss Adams, daughter of John Adams, second president of the United States, written in France and England, in 1785. book
  4. ^ "Excerpt on Abigail Adams". Bathsheba's Breast: Women, Cancer & History. JHU Press. 2005. pp. 37–49. ISBN 978-0-8018-8064-3. 
  5. ^ Wead, Doug (2005). The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of Our Nation's Leaders. Atria Books. ISBN 0-7434-9726-0.
  6. ^ Jeremy Stern (October 27, 2008). "What's Wrong with HBO's Dramatization of John Adams's Story". History News Network. Retrieved March 18, 2011. 

External links[edit]