Louisa Catherine The Other Mrs. Adams Margery M. Heffron, David L. Michelmore

Publication date:
28 Apr 2015
Yale University Press
432 pages: 227 x 146mm
15 b-w illus.
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The definitive biography of Louisa Catherine, wife and political partner of President John Quincy Adams

“Insightful and entertaining.”—Susan Dunn, New York Review of Books

New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, wife and political partner of John Quincy Adams, became one of the most widely known women in America when her husband assumed office as sixth president in 1 825. Shrewd, intellectual, and articulate, she was close to the center of American power over many decades, and extensive archives reveal her as an unparalleled observer of the politics, personalities, and issues of her day. Louisa left behind a trove of journals, essays, letters, and other writings, yet no biographer has mined these riches until now. Margery Heffron brings Louisa out of the shadows at last to offer the first full and nuanced portrait of an extraordinary first lady.
The book begins with Louisa’s early life in London and Nantes, France, then details her excruciatingly awkward courtship and engagement to John Quincy, her famous diplomatic success in tsarist Russia, her life as a mother, years abroad as the wife of a distinguished diplomat, and finally the Washington, D.C., era when, as a legendary hostess, she made no small contribution to her husband’s successful bid for the White House. Louisa’s sharp insights as a tireless recorder provide a fresh view of early American democratic society, presidential politics and elections, and indeed every important political and social issue of her time.

The late Margery Heffron was an independent writer and scholar.

Heffron’s “agreeably written biography” “allow[s] Louisa to emerge as a subject herself. In the process, she also becomes newly convincing as a source, especially in connection with her husband’s complicated, grinding ambition, a quality she discerned beneath his cloak of rectitude.”—Thomas Mallon, New Yorker

A “sparkling biography”: “Readers will . . . be grateful for this fascinating, if partial, portrait of an exceptional woman.”—Virginia DeJohn Anderson, New York Times Book Review, cover review

“Insightful and entertaining.”—Susan Dunn, New York Review of Books

“Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams has long been an unjustly overlooked First Lady. . . . In retrospect, Louisa Catherine Adams remains one of the major First Ladies of the 19th century, comparable to Dolley Madison.”—Daniel Walker Howe, Books & Culture

Editors’ Choice, New York Times Book Review