You know that Michelle Obama has a law degree from Harvard, Betty Ford was once a member of the Martha Graham Auxiliary Dance Company, and Nancy Reagan was an actor. But what do you know about Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams?
Louisa Adams (1775-1852) was born in England and lived in France before marrying John Quincy Adams. After her marriage, she wrote ‘satirical plays’ as some sources call them, but the National First Ladies’ Library reports them as “a series of bitter, sardonic plays, often skewering her husband”. Apparently, John Quincy Adams was an asshat when it came to gender equality.
Before he was president, and without consulting with his wife, he decided to take a political position in Russia and leave their two older children in America with his mother while he and Louisa moved with their youngest child, Charles, and Louisa’s sister, Kitty. Yep, Louisa didn’t get a choice in this one or any other decisions, it seemed. Shockingly, she fell into a deep depression. Who could have seen that coming? Not only was she separated from two of her children, she gave birth to a cherished baby girl who died a year later. John wasn’t a supportive kinda guy. There was never enough money. And those Russian winters probably didn’t help.
To his credit, John tried to get transferred back to the United States after that as Louisa asked. But he was sent to Belgium instead. And left Louisa in Russia. You’d think that would be the end of Louisa’s mental health but, in another shocking turn, she actually flourished without her husband! When she finally left to join John in Paris, our gutsy Louisa packed up Charles and Kitty and headed out in a carriage on sleds—during the Napoleonic War. What kind of chutzpah does it take to descend from a Russian carriage while surrounded by Napoleonic soldiers and, speaking in flawless French, claim to be Napoleon’s sister traveling undercover? Well, whatever amount it took, Louisa had it!
And all of this happened before John Adams became the sixth POTUS.
Louisa’s life only got rockier after her husband’s scandalous election.
Read the whole incredible story of Louisa Adams—one kick-ass FLOTUS—at The National First Ladies’ Library and Historic Site.