Dear Abigail

The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sisters

By Diane Jacobs
(Ballantine Books, Hardcover, 9780345465061, 528pp.)

Publication Date: February 25, 2014

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Description

For readers of the historical works of Robert K. Massie, David McCulough, and Alison Weir comes the first biography on the life of Abigail Adams and her sisters.
 
“Never sisters loved each other better than we.”—Abigail Adams in a letter to her sister Mary, June 1776
 
Much has been written about the enduring marriage of President John Adams and his wife, Abigail. But few know of the equally strong bond Abigail shared with her sisters, Mary Cranch and Elizabeth Shaw Peabody, accomplished women in their own right. Now acclaimed biographer Diane Jacobs reveals their moving story, which unfolds against the stunning backdrop of America in its transformative colonial years.
 
Abigail, Mary, and Elizabeth Smith grew up in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the close-knit daughters of a minister and his wife. When the sisters moved away from one another, they relied on near-constant letters—from what John Adams called their “elegant pen”—to buoy them through pregnancies, illnesses, grief, political upheaval, and, for Abigail, life in the White House. Infusing her writing with rich historical perspective and detail, Jacobs offers fascinating insight into these progressive women’s lives: oldest sister Mary, who became de facto mayor of her small village; youngest sister Betsy, an aspiring writer who, along with her husband, founded the second coeducational school in the United States; and middle child Abigail, who years before becoming First Lady ran the family farm while her husband served in the Continental Congress, first in Philadelphia, and was then sent to France and England, where she joined him at last.
 
This engaging narrative traces the sisters’ lives from their childhood sibling rivalries to their eyewitness roles during the American Revolution and their adulthood as outspoken wives and mothers. They were women ahead of their time who believed in intellectual and educational equality between the sexes. Drawing from newly discovered correspondence, never-before-published diaries, and archival research, Dear Abigail is a fascinating front-row seat to history—and to the lives of three exceptional women who were influential during a time when our nation’s democracy was just taking hold.

Advance praise for Dear Abigail
 
“In a beautifully wrought narrative, Diane Jacobs has brought the high-spirited, hyperarticulate Smith sisters, and the early years of the American republic, to rich, luminous life. . . . A stunning, sensitive work of history.”—Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Cleopatra
 
“Jacobs is a superb storyteller. In this sweeping narrative about family and friendship during the American Revolution, Abigail Adams emerges as one of the great political heroines of the eighteenth century. I fell in love with her all over again.”—Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of A World on Fire
 
“Beauty, brains, and breeding—Elizabeth, Abigail, and Mary had them all. This absorbing history shows how these close-knit and well-educated daughters of colonial America become women of influence in the newly begotten United States. Jacobs’s feel for the period is confident; so is her appreciation of the nuances of character.”—Daniel Mark Epstein, author of The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage




About the Author

Diane Jacobs is the author of Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft, Christmas in July: The Life and Art of Preston Sturges, But We Need the Eggs: The Magic of Woody Allen, and Hollywood Renaissance: The New Generation of Filmmakers and Their Works. She has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from Columbia University. Jacobs has taught at Dartmouth College, the Columbia University School of the Arts, and the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and has contributed to such publications as The New York Times and The Village Voice. She lives in New York City.




Praise For Dear Abigail

Advance praise for Dear Abigail
 
“In a beautifully wrought narrative, Diane Jacobs has brought the high-spirited, hyperarticulate Smith sisters, and the early years of the American republic, to rich, luminous life. . . . A stunning, sensitive work of history.”—Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Cleopatra
 
“Jacobs is a superb storyteller. In this sweeping narrative about family and friendship during the American Revolution, Abigail Adams emerges as one of the great political heroines of the eighteenth century. I fell in love with her all over again.”—Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of A World on Fire
 
“Beauty, brains, and breeding—Elizabeth, Abigail, and Mary had them all. This absorbing history shows how these close-knit and well-educated daughters of colonial America become women of influence in the newly begotten United States. Jacobs’s feel for the period is confident; so is her appreciation of the nuances of character.”—Daniel Mark Epstein, author of The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage
 
“To turn the pages of this beautifully written biography is to step into the shoes of the three Smith sisters in a brilliant reconstruction of their lives against the backdrop of American history. Their triumphs and sorrows remain with you long after you’ve finished reading.”—Marion Meade, author of Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?
 
“The three Smith sisters were witnesses to and participants in some of the most important events of early American history, and their spritely letters attest to their indomitable public spirit as well as their familial devotion to each other. In Diane Jacobs’s illuminating account of their remarkable lives, the personal is indeed the political as we gain insight into how our country came to be and how the Smith sisters helped to make us into the Americans we are today.”—Deirdre Bair, author of Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography

“Jacobs weaves a fascinating fabric from the ties that bound, thrilled, and sometimes frustrated America’s most beloved Founding Mother to her sisters. A must-read for those interested in the women’s lives during the Revolutionary period.”—Nancy Rubin Stuart, author of Defiant Brides: The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women and the Radical Men They Married
 
“Jacobs elegantly intertwines the personal with the political. Her intimate accounts of the lives and families of Abigail Adams and her two intellectual, passionately engaged sisters illuminate the history of colonial Massachusetts, eighteenth-century Enlightenment England, Revolutionary Paris, and the nascent United States.”—Sydney Ladensohn Stern, author of Gloria Steinem: Her Passions, Politics, and Mystique
 
“Abigail Adams and her two sisters demonstrate how women, the generals in charge of their families, did so much to make America what it is today. Their three different stories become one magnificent epic in an astonishing feat of narrative history and biography.”—Carl Rollyson, author of American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath

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