Abigail Adams by Janet Whitney
Sadly, however, “Abigail Adams” by Janet Whitney is far from being a biography of her life. Janet Whitney arranges her material in chronological presentation. She starts from how Abigail Adams and John Adams fell in love and got married.
She continues on with the biography describing how John Adams came to presidency as Abigail Adams gave birth to his kids one by one. The author chose wisely to arrange her material in chronological order; it helped better understand that time period. Janet Whitney didn’t make any assumptions about the knowledge of the reader, therefore carefully describing each and every event during the life of Abigail and John Adams. The events were detailed and included many direct quotes from the diary of John Adams. Therefore, it was easier to visualize the majority of the important events during the American Revolution.
In society (the modern world especially) more and more females are looking to research on historical female figures that had an impact on the world. Janet Whitney intended to write this book for the female population but failed to interest them in the midst of the biography. The title of the biography is enough to attract and spark an interest in the reader, but as the reader continues reading, he/she will be filled with nothing but questions and disappointment. Up until the middle of the biography, Abigail Adams is mentioned only when she becomes pregnant with John Adam’s babies.
The rest of the first half of the biography is an in-depth illustration of John Adam’s accomplishments. Abigail Adams is mentioned as merely a sidekick to John Adam’s success and a great companion. She is described as the most intellectual woman John Adam’s has ever met. Throughout the book the author describes in great depth and detail about the history that took place during the time of John and Abigail Adams. She seems to have great knowledge on the American Revolution and describes many detailed descriptions about John Adams life.
Although the author does describe the events leading up to the American Revolution, the author fails to depict the role of Abigail Adams in the lives of her husband and others. I believe that the author thinks of Abigail Adams as an unflattering topic, which is ironic because the author decided to write a biography about her. The author wrote the biography in a way that seems like John Adams is the highlight of the life of Abigail Adams and that Abigail Adams was a small influence in the road to presidency for John Adams.
The opinions of the author are not directly states in the biography. But there are certain parts of the book that shows an indirect opinion of Abigail Adams. As quoted in the biography, the author writes, “She freely expresses her longing to see him…she freely expresses her reliability on him…and the extent to how much she needs him in her life. ” (Whitney page 113). The author believes that Abigail Adams felt like she needed John Adams in her life because she relied on him so much. Nowhere in biography does the author cite specific evidence as to why and where Abigail would say this.
This also highlights the statement I said previously, the author believes Abigail to be an unflattering topic. The quote above describes Abigail as a needy, un-intellectual woman. The majority of the information the author used were from letters and diaries and biographies of other important historical figures such as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Thomas Hutchinson. Most of the biography was filled with quotes from first hand sources as the diary of Thomas Jefferson and letters written by John Adams.
The quotes mostly described the setting of the time period rather than the important details. For example, it described the physical appearances of Abigail and John Adams and described the major and minor details of the houses and towns they lived in. The author did an excellent job at giving the reader a window into the time in which Abigail Adams lived. The historical documents used as a reference for the writing of this biography were constantly quotes to give us a visual as to what events were taking place. The author wrote pages describing a single certain event.
Janet Whitney would not only quote from her first- hand sources, but she would describe and explain the quote as well to prevent any confusion. For example, Janet Whitney quotes in the biography, “The flame is kindled and like lightning it catches from soul to soul. Although the mind is shocked at the thought of shedding human blood, more especially the blood of our countrymen and a civil war is of all wars the most dreadful…” This creates a visual picture inside the reader’s head of how gory and gruesome the battles and fights were.
Overall, I did not enjoy reading this biography. I was looking forward to learning about Abigail Adams and her influence on American history but as I read I was constantly disappointed. I didn’t realize that the whole book would be based on John Adam’s and how much of an effect he had on Abigail Adam’s life rather than how much of an effect Abigail Adam’s had in America. The biography was also written in an un-interesting way. It felt as if the author was just throwing information inside the text without putting effort into making it sound interesting.
While reading the biography I would read over numerous mentioning of dates, times, cities, towns and names of random village men who are irrelevant to the life of Abigail Adam’s. This biography was a complete disappoint to its feminist audience. Throughout our lives we have always heard about how much of an extraordinary person Abigail Adam’s was but none of that is depicted in this biography. I look forward to reading an actual biography of Abigail Adam’s: a biography that doesn’t portray Abigail Adam’s as someone who’s constantly reliant on her husband.