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Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriageby Edith Gelles
Synopses & Reviews
The story of Abigail and John Adams is as much a romance as it is a lively chapter in the early history of this country. The marriage of the second president and first lady is one of the most extraordinary examples of passion and endurance that this country has ever witnessed. And it is a drama peopled with a pantheon of eighteenth-century stars: George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, his daughter Patsy, Ben Franklin, and Mercy Otis Warren.
Abigail and John were a uniquely compatible duo, and in their remarkable union we can see the strength of a people determined to achieve full independence in the face of daunting odds. Yet while much has been written about each as an individual, Abigail and John provides, for the first time, the captivating story of their dedication and sacrifice that helped usher in the founding of our country, a time that fascinates us still.
Married in 1764 by Abigail's reverend father, the young couple worked side by side for a decade, raising a family while John's status as one of the most prosperous, respected lawyers in Massachusetts grew. As his duties within the new republic expanded, the Adamses endured a long period of sporadic separations. But their loyalty and love kept their bond firm across the distance, as is evident in their tender letters. It's in this correspondence that Abigail comes into her own as a woman of politics, offering words of advice and encouragement to a husband whose absences were crucial to the independence they both cherished. And it's also in these exchanges that they worked through the familial tragedies that tested them: the death of their son Charles from alcoholism and the impoverishment and early death of their daughter Nabby.
Through its fifty-four years, the union of John and Abigail Adams was based on mutual respect and ambition, intellect and equality, that went far beyond the conventional bond. Abigail and John is an inspirational portrait of a couple who endured the turmoil and trials of a revolution, and in so doing paved the way for the birth of a nation.
Book News Annotation:
There have been biographies recently of the second US president John Adams (1735-1826) and Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818), says Gelles (gender research, Stanford U.), but she offers the first double biography, giving the two equal weight and focusing on the relationship between them. She places their remarkable marriage in the context of the revolutionary and federal periods, by shifting the historical lens from the country to the family. Her major source is the many, articulate, informative, and personal letters they exchanged throughout their life together. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gelles offers an intimate look at the Revolutionary era's most influential marriage and America's first power couple, Abigail and John Adams. 12 b&w photos.
“Fascinating...Gelles has provided a balanced portrait, and her mastery of the periods issues and history is evident on every page. Her treatment of the family... [is] written with understanding and sensitivity... But it is her strength as a feminist historian that makes her treatment of Abigail the most gripping... masterful and captivating.”
— Washington Times
“A landmark... Well-organized and expertly composed, the book is an impressive addition to the nations written history.”
Readers who enjoyed Doris Kearns Goodwins No Ordinary Time, Cokie Robertss Founding Mothers, and David McCulloughs John Adams will love “this eminently readable… charming and sensitive, yet candid and unflinching joint biography” (Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848) of Americas original “power couple”: Abigail and John Adams.
About the Author
Edith B. Gelles, Ph.D., holds degrees from Cornell, Yale, and the University of California-Irvine. She has taught at several universities and is a Senior Scholar at Stanford's Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research. She lives in Palo Alto, California.
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