Louisa Catherine Adams (Johnson) (1775 - 1852) MP

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Nicknames: "Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams"
Birthplace: London, Middlesex, England
Death: Died in Washington D.C., District of Columbia, United States
Cause of death: Stroke
Occupation: First Lady, First Lady of the United States
Managed by: Denise Unander
Last Updated:

About Louisa Catherine Adams (Johnson)

Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, born Louisa Catherine Johnson (February 12, 1775 – May 15, 1852), wife of John Quincy Adams, was First Lady of the United States from 1825 to 1829.

As late as 1844, she gave parties for more than two hundred guests at events that lasted into the morning hours. Louisa outlived John Quincy by four years, dying in 1852. Congress adjourned to attend her funeral—a mark of respect for a very private woman caught in an intensely public life.

Louisa Catherine Adams, John Q.'s wife, was quite a lady in her own right. John Q. was minister to Russia, but he got transferred to Paris, leaving Louisa Catherine behind in St. Petersburg. (The Empress of Russia sometimes baby-sat John Q. and Catherine's children!) Anyway, Louisa Catherine didn't want to stay in St. Petersburg by herself, so she set out with her children in the dead of winter, heading for Paris. For parts of the journey there were no roads of any kind. She passed through vast fields of corpses from Napoleon's Retreat. Border crossings always presented grave dangers. When she finally got to France, border guards would not let her through, and were plainly intending to kill her and her children. But -- get this -- she convinced them that she was Napoleon's daughter, and they not only let her through, but provided an escort!

Early life

Born in London, she was the only foreign-born First Lady. She was the daughter of Joshua Johnson, an American merchant, and Catherine Nuth-Johnson, an Englishwoman. Her father was originally from Maryland and served as United States consulate 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

When she had blossomed into a pretty, slender young lady with delicate features, reddish blond hair and brown eyes, 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 foreigner 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 (1811-1812)

Married life

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.

Louisa Adams c. 1821-25, by Charles Bird King.

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 U.S. Capitol in 1848; after which, she remained in Washington until her death on May 15, 1852, at the age of 77. She was buried 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

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[1] to honor the first spouses of the United States. Louisa Adams' coin was released May 29, 2008.

References

  1. The Diary and Autobiographical Writings of Louisa Catherine Adams: 1778 -1850

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LOUISA CATHERINE JOHNSON ADAMS, the wife of John Quincy Adams, was born in London on 12 February 1775, the second daughter of Joshua Johnson of Maryland and Catherine Nuth Johnson. Her father represented the Maryland firm of Wallace, Davidson, and Johnson in London. From 1778 to 1783, while England and France were at war, the Johnson family lived in Nantes, France, and Louisa and her older sister boarded at a convent school for several years. Following the peace the Johnson family returned to London where Joshua Johnson served as the first U.S. consul (1790-1797). Louisa and John Quincy Adams became engaged in 1796 when the latter, then U.S. minister to the Netherlands, was in London for the ratification of Jay's Treaty. They married in that city on 26 July 1797, in the parish church of All Hallows Barking.

Louisa accompanied her husband on his diplomatic assignments to Berlin (1797-1801), St. Petersburg (1809-1815), and London (1815-1817). When John Quincy's career called the couple to Washington the Adamses lived at first (1803-1808) with Louisa's family, who had settled there following the collapse of Joshua Johnson's London business in 1797. During their later residence at the capitol the Adamses' social life was particularly demanding. Louisa hosted weekly receptions at their home on F Street when John Quincy Adams was secretary of state and presided as first lady at dinners and levees in the White House.

Louisa stayed on at the F Street residence following John Quincy's death in 1848. She suffered a stroke the following year and died on 15 May 1852. Of particular note in the Adams Papers are Louisa Catherine Adams's autobiographical writings ("Adventures of a Nobody," "Record of a Life, or My Story," "Narrative of a Journey from Russia to France, 1815") and her journal letters to her in-laws, John and Abigail Adams.

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Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams (February 12, 1775 – May 15, 1852), wife of John Quincy Adams, was First Lady of the United States from 1825 to 1829.

She was born in London to an English mother, Catherine Nuth Johnson, but her father was American, Joshua Johnson of Maryland who served as United States consulate general in London after 1790. She had a sister, Caroline, and a brother, Thomas. Louisa Adams is to date the only foreign-born First Lady. She is the daughter-in-law of John Adams, the second president of the U.S., and Abigail Adams, second first lady.

A career diplomat at twenty-seven, accredited to the Netherlands, John Quincy Adams developed his interest in nineteen-year-old Louisa when they met in London in 1794. Three years later they were married in All Hallows-by-the-Tower, and went to Berlin, Prussia in course of duty. A citizen by birth, she arrived in the United States for the first time in 1801. Then began years divided among the family home in Quincy, Massachusetts, their house in Boston, and a political home in Washington, D.C.

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. 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.

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 Adamses could look back on a secure happiness as well as many trials when they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary at Quincy in 1847.

Her husband died at the U.S. Capitol in 1848; she died in Washington in 1852, aged 77, and today lies buried 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).

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisa_Catherine_(Johnson)_Adams

http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=6

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Louisa was second of nine children; seven sisters, one brother; Anne "Nancy" Johnson Hellen (1773-1811), Carolina Virginia Marylanda Johnson Buchanan Frye (1776- 1862), Thomas Baker Johnson (1779-1843), Harriet Johnson Boyd (1781- 1850), Catherine "Kitty" Johnson Smith (?-1869), Eliza Johnson Pope (?-1818), Adelaide Johnson Hellen (1787-1877)

Louisa was married at 22 years old to John Quincy Adams on 26 July, 1797, London, England. Abigail Adams considered her European daughter-in-law to lack the substance of a sturdy American woman and judged by her thinness and poor health that she would not live long. 
Suffering from the effect of her first pregnancy, Louisa sailed [from England] to Berlin, where her husband was posted to the Prussian court. Once on shore, she miscarried the child and thus began a death defying reproductive history that included fourteen pregnancies — nine miscarriages, four live births, and one still-birth.7 

In 1802, her husband was elected by state senate to the U.S. Senate. As the son of a former President, John Quincy and Louisa Adams had immediate entrée to the most powerful figures in Washington, D.C. when they arrived for him to begin his tenure as a Federalist U.S. Senator from Massachusetts - they dined with Thomas Jefferson, James and Dolley Madison

In 1808, President Madison offered Adams the post of Minister to Russia. Without consulting Louisa Adams, he accepted. To add insult to injury, it had been decided for her by him and his mother that the senior Adams would raise her eldest two sons, George and John at home in Massachusetts, while Louisa Adams was permitted only to take her third and youngest child, George. She would be separated from her two sons for eight years. She later claimed it was one of the most upsetting moments of her life.

Louisa Adams did not recall her life in St. Petersburg fondly.

After a difficult transatlantic crossing at the height of the Napoleonic wars, she was grateful for the company of her sister Kitty. It was much like her time in Berlin, in that she became a personal favorite of the royal family, particularly the powerful Tsar Alexander I who frequently requested her as his dancing partner. The Adamses, however, did not have the financial wealth to maintain the lifestyle expected of them. She found the winters especially painful with the bitter cold and long, dark days. Abigail Adams agreed that the move had been a bad one and even wrote to President Madison, urging him to bring her son home; Madison let Adams decide and he chose to remain.

The one great bright moment of her time there was the 1811 birth of her fourth child, the daughter she had longed to have. The first American citizen born in Russia, the girl was named after her mother. Tragically, a year later she died, leaving not only Louisa but John Quincy deeply bereaved. Adams petitioned for a return home to America, to have his family reunited as Louisa wished but he was assigned to help negotiate a peace treaty at Ghent, Belgium to bring an end to America's naval war with England.

Left alone in St. Petersburg, Louisa Adams flourished, entertaining and managing better than even she expected without her husband. When he bid her to close up their home and meet him in Paris, she began one of the most extraordinary adventures of her life. With her son Charles and sister Kitty, Louisa Adams made a six-week excursion through Russia, Poland and Germany towards France in the middle of winter and war in a carriage with a sleigh bottom.

Despite warnings from Germans she met along the way and the fields littered with the dead soldiers of war that she passed through, Louisa Adams pressed on, even ordering her coachman to risk their lives by proceeding over iced rivers. Nearing Paris, her Russian vehicle was surrounded by hostile Napoleonic troops and camp followers who called for her death, assuming she was Russian. Louisa Adams had her servants whisper that she was Napoleon's sister traveling incognito. Speaking perfect French, she stepped out of the carriage to rally the troops with salutes to Napoleon in her obviously perfect French.

This period was followed by a joyous time: two years in the land of her birth, England, where her husband served as U.S. Minister. Her two sons were sent from Boston to London and the nuclear family was reunited. They lived in the countryside, and Louisa Adams enjoyed attending church and a renewed emotional intimacy with her husband.

From here, the Adamses returned to Washington, D.C. where he was made Secretary of State to the new President, James Monroe. During a brief visit to his parents, Abigail Adams expressed a new respect for her daughter-in-law and after her mother in law's death in 1818, Louisa Adams maintained a lively and personal correspondence with her father-in-law.

As a Cabinet wife, Louisa Adams followed the lead of First Lady Elizabeth Monroe in refusing to make social calls on other political and diplomatic wives and briefly earned their enmity. Nevertheless, her home became the social center of the city, where she frequently hosted large and lively open house Tuesday night receptions.

It also introduced her to the key political leaders of the time. This knowledge, combined with her wisdom about human nature shaped Louisa Adams into a keenly acute political commentator, a role that would benefit her husband's 1824 presidential candidacy.

When John Quincy was elected, the pleasure of moving to the White House in 1825 was dimmed by the bitter politics of the election and by her own poor health. Louisa suffered from deep depression. Though she continued her weekly "drawing rooms," she preferred quiet evenings--reading, composing music and verse, playing her harp. The necessary entertainments were always elegant.

Her years in the White House were made difficult by troubles involving the young people of her family. Her son George used opium to sleep and fathered an illegitimate child by a chambermaid. Her son John had been thrown out of Harvard, her son Charles confessed to being "addicted…to depraved habits" while at school there, using prostitutes at times. Two nephews and two nieces of her husband (the children of Thomas Adams) were often part of the household seeking escape from their father's alcoholic tirades.

Louisa Adams was also raising her late sister's two sons and daughter. One of her nephews, left in charge of the White House while the rest of the family was vacationing, began an affair with a maid and then ran off to marry her. Her niece, Mary Catherine had a flirtatious affair with both her cousins Charles and George before finally marrying their brother John in the White House on February 25, 1828, the only time a presidential son was wed in the mansion.

Few presidential relationships deteriorated as much as did that of John Quincy and Louisa Adams during their White House tenure. Adams consistently ignored his wife's opinions or input even on matters involving their mutual personal well-being. The couple spent many of their summers apart, with the First Lady in Quincy, MA, in mid-Atlantic and New England spas, beaches and rivers where she indulged herself in rowing, swimming and fishing with other women friends.

She also began reading the letters of her mother-in-law Abigail Adams and believed they should be published as an inspiration to all American women. The concept of "women's rights" and equality became a passion of her's inspired by a newspaper story of an Irish servant girl who committed suicide after being seduced by her master. For herself, she began writing more poetry and a series of bitter, sardonic plays, often skewering her husband. In one, "The Metropolitan Kaleidoscope" she writes sadly of the repressed spirit and intelligence of a character she named "Lady Sharpley" who was clearly herself. While it is known that she often entertained guests with her singing and performance on the harp, it is not known to what extent she encouraged the enactment of her plays.

Just weeks after leaving the White House in 1828, Louisa Adams suffered one of the most significant emotional blows of her life when her son George drowned a likely suicide by jumping from a ship. The death of her son John was no less trying but he left a wife and children that moved in with his mother. In fact, Louisa Adams would take a renewed joy in life by helping to raise her two granddaughters

In 1831 her husband began 17 years of notable service in the House of Representatives. It was through her husband's intense struggle against slavery as one of the nation's most overtly abolitionist figures that Louisa Adams had a sense of redemption for her own existence as a woman to make great contributions yet who lived in a world where woman were surpressed. She made a direct correlation between the repression of African-American slaves and American women and in that context assumed the role of Congressman Adams' most passionate aide. During the fight for the "right of petition" in 1842, Louisa Adams began reading, filing and cataloguing the many anti-slavery petitions with which he was flooded.

In 1847, the Adamses celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary at Quincy, MA.

When the former President was felled by a stroke on the floor of Congress and died in a nearby chamber shortly afterwards, Louisa Adams was notified in time at home and came to his side before he died. Despite her deep ambivalence about the cost of her husband's devotion to public life to her family, Louisa Adams remained the strongest defender of his record and reputation.

As a presidential widow, Louisa Adams continued to live in her F Street (Previously the home of Dolly Madison) residence. She suffered a stroke in 1849 and lived for three more years. Although she did not write a book for publication about her life, she did author several autobiographical writings: "Adventures of a Nobody," "Record of a Life, or My Story," "Narrative of a Journey from Russia to France, 1815." Upon the death of Louisa Adams, both houses of Congress adjourned in mourning, making her the first woman whose death was so acknowledged by the federal government.

Burial: United First Parish Church, Quincy Massachusetts

 

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Louisa Catherine Adams, John Q.'s wife, was quite a lady in her own right. John Q. was minister to Russia, but he got transferred to Paris, leaving Louisa Catherine behind in St. Petersburg. (The Empress of Russia sometimes baby-sat John Q. and Catherine's children!) Anyway, Louisa Catherine didn't want to stay in St. Petersburg by herself, so she set out with her children in the dead of winter, heading for Paris. For parts of the journey there were no roads of any kind. She passed through vast fields of corpses from Napoleon's Retreat. Border crossings always presented grave dangers. When she finally got to France, border guards would not let her through, and were plainly intending to kill her and her children. But -- get this -- she convinced them that she was Napoleon's daughter, and they not only let her through, but provided an escort!

Added by Walter G. Ashworth

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Louisa Catherine Adams's Timeline

1775
February 12, 1775
London, Middlesex, England
1797
July 26, 1797
Age 22
London, England

This couple had 4 children.

1799
1799
Age 23
1801
April 12, 1801
Age 26
Berlin, Germany
1803
July 4, 1803
Age 28
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA
1806
1806
Age 30
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
1807
August 18, 1807
Age 32
Boston, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA
1811
August 12, 1811
Age 36
St. Petersburg, Russia
1852
May 15, 1852
Age 77
Washington D.C., District of Columbia, United States