Louisa Catherine

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The Other Mrs. Adams

Margery M. Heffron; Edited by David L. Michelmore

View Inside Format: Paper
Price: $25.00
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The first biography of John Quincy Adams’ talented and spirited wife, the only first lady born outside the United States

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 1825. 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.
"Richly detailed, evocative and wonderfully intimate, Louisa Catherine is historical biography at its best. The portraits of John Quincy Adams and Louisa—her upbringing, his "entrapment," their courtship, the marriage, and beyond—seem to come straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Painted on a broad canvas, from Philadelphia to St. Petersburg, this narrative will linger in the mind long after reading."—Nigel Hamilton, University of Massachusetts Boston
“Louisa Catherine Adams was one of the savviest political minds of early America and she presided as an honored presence in Washington for almost a half century.  But, despite her witty letters and detailed diaries, no one has given us a good biography of ‘the other Mrs. Adams’ until now.  Thankfully Margery Heffron finally righted that wrong with this lively book about a charming but complicated woman and her times.”—Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty
"Margery Heffron does much more than tell Louisa Catherine's tale, as fascinating as the tale is. Above all else, this is a sophisticated analysis of a self. It takes a scholar such as Heffron to contextualize and tease out meaning. Under Heffron's deft hand, Louisa Catherine is presented as a full human being, a woman of her time and place."—Catherine Allgor, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
“Cultured, erudite, and passionate, Louisa Catherine Adams had a long and fascinating life as wife to John Quincy Adams on the road to the presidency, and that life at long last has a superb biography. . . . Heffron is a spirited, elegant writer, and although she assesses her evidence with an impartial squint, she’s unabashedly partisan as well.”—Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly
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

“Heffron’s account of Louisa’s life and times has the narrative sweep of a 19th-century romantic novel, spiced with sexual mischief, political conflict and family tragedy. . . . Her biography is nothing less than captivating, an engrossing read for both the serious history buff and the general reader alike.”—Barry Alfonso, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“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
ISBN: 9780300212563
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
432 pages, 5 3/4 x 8 15/16
15 b/w illus.