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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 644

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This is the grave of Louisa Adams.

Born in 1775 in London, Louisa Johnson was the daughter of Joshua Johnson, a Maryland merchant, and an English woman named Catherine Newth. They were also part of the Anglo-American world that demonstrates that the American Revolution was a lot more complicated than an us v. them mentality. People were crossing back and forth between the colonies and Britain and then between the nations both before and after the Revolution, as well as during. In fact, Louisa’s uncle was the governor of Maryland and her sister would marry John Pope, a future Kentucky senator.

In 1795, Louisa met John Quincy Adams. Her father had been named consul general to the United States back in 1790 and Adams visited their home five years later. He was 30 years old and looking for a wife. He was interested in her older sister first, but then he fell for Louisa and they were married in 1797. She was 22. His father, now president, had not met the woman. But her parents moved to the U.S. the same year as the marriage and Adams provided support for his new in-laws. Her father, who had some mental illness issues, quickly fell into bankruptcy and Adams gave him a job as the U.S. Director of Stamps. He died in 1802. Louisa finally came to the nation where she would be First Lady in 1801.

Louisa had four children by John Quincy. The youngest, a daughter, died as a baby. The other three were boys. The oldest two, George Washington and John, both were alcoholics, a common problem in the Adams family due to the tremendous pressure placed upon the children to live up to the family name. John Quincy’s own brothers had this problem. So they both were failures and died young. But the third child, Charles Francis, would live up to the Adams name and helped keep the British from recognizing the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Louisa had to live the life of wife of a diplomat and then political giant. She didn’t really care for it. She was in poor health for one thing, with serious migraine headache problems. Even though the couple only had four children, there were many miscarriages, so she spent a large amount of her life pregnant or dealing with the consequences of those pregnancies. She hated Massachusetts, thinking it incredibly boring after a life in London and Paris, but then also hated St. Petersburg when John Quincy was named minister to Russia. Depression was also a serious issue in her life. But she was a very good hostess and when John Quincy was Secretary of State, she made her home the center of diplomatic gatherings in Washington. However, when John Quincy became president, her depression deepened significantly and those were not good years for her. She didn’t have a very good relationship with her husband either and even stated her regret into marrying into a family when the men were so cold and distant, which also was true of her sons. They also fought a lot over how to raise the children and the amount of money to spend on the household, with the strict and parsimonious John Quincy against the less morally rigid Louisa. Even though she still didn’t like Massachusetts, she hoped at least escape Washington and spend her old age there. But it didn’t happen. John Quincy ran for Congress and stayed there until his death in 1848. At that point, Louisa decided to stay in Washington herself until her death from a stroke in 1852. She was 77 years old.

Louisa Adams is buried in United First Parish Church, Quincy, Massachusetts. Of course, John Quincy is buried with her, but he will get his own post later in this series.

If you would like this series to visit more 19th century American women, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Catherine O’Leary, known for her cow, is in Chicago and the reformer Fanny Wright is in Cincinnati. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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